Selection will fuel testing and exacerbate exam factory culture

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  • Grammar schools segregate very young children into successes and failures. For every child selected, three or four are rejected.
  • England’s children are already among the most tested in the world with tests at almost every stage of school including at age 5-6. The introduction of another high stakes test at age 11, with further selection at age 14 and 16, will add to the growing pressure children face at school.
  • England’s exam factory culture is having a negative impact on many young people and their experiences of learning. The focus on test results in schools has already led to a narrowing of the curriculum and is forcing pupils to learn things for which they are not ready. It also means that children are developing a sense of ‘failure’ at a younger and younger age.
  • ChildLine, the counselling service for children and young people, has reported that:
  • School and exam pressures were one of the biggest causes of feelings of stress and anxiety among children and young people;
  • There was a 200 per cent increase in counselling sessions related to exam stress between 2012-13 and 2013-14; and
  • There was a considerable increase in all age groups in counselling sessions related to school and education problems.1
  • Selection at eleven is also likely to have an impact further down the system with pressure on primary schools to start preparing children for the exam from younger and younger ages.
  • The PISA findings suggest that a Government which creates or allows school systems based on competition and selection, are ignoring the effects on students' attitudes towards their learning. Germany is moving towards reducing the levels of stratification and Poland is delaying the age of selection.2
  • An impact of high stakes testing is that pupils begin to see education entirely in terms of tests and qualifications. A majority of teachers surveyed as part of independent research commissioned by the NUT in 2015 thought that “most pupils think it is only worth learning things that are tested” and that: “Pupils are more concerned with test outcomes than with learning for interest”.3
  • The OECD has also found that pupils are often less motivated in more selective systems. In contrast students in more comprehensive systems report that ''making an effort' in mathematics and ''learning mathematics'' are viewed as important for their future career.4