Selective Education Green Paper

13 December 2016

Commenting on the NUT’s response to the Government’s consultation on the Schools That Work for Everyone green paper, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary at the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“The NUT response makes clear the Union’s opposition to the Government’s proposals to expand selective education. Instead, the NUT believes all children must be supported to achieve their full potential and that the best route to achieve this is through a fully-funded comprehensive and inclusive school system staffed by qualified teachers.

“The NUT response draws on evidence from the Netherlands which was cited as a model of a successful selective system at the recent Education Select Committee evidence session on selection. The NUT cites evidence from the OECD, the Dutch Inspectorate of Education and the Dutch teachers’ union, AOb, all of whom have warned that the country’s selective model is exacerbating inequality in society. (1)

“The Dutch evidence is supported by global research by the OECD on the effectiveness of international education systems. This shows that selective systems are not only more socially segregated, they are also less effective than inclusive ones. This finding was confirmed in the most recent Pisa 2015 survey published last week. Asked to comment on what the 2015 Pisa survey revealed about comprehensive and selective education systems, Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills stated:

“The highest performing education systems are non-selective and have a strong emphasis on comprehensive education. They ensure all students are expected to succeed and there is no trade-off between equity and excellence.” (2)

“The NUT response also refutes claims in the green paper that academies are currently permitted to ‘select within their trust’. The NUT has received legal advice which makes clear that selection within academy trusts in the manner described in the green paper is unlawful. The NUT wrote to Education Secretary Justine Greening in November seeking clarification on this proposal. (3)

“Increasing the number of selective schools in England will have far-reaching system-wide impacts. There will be a detrimental impact on those schools that don’t select which will no longer have a comprehensive intake. The evidence shows that the attainment of pupils at secondary moderns in selective areas is not as high as their peers in comprehensive schools. The statistics show that children on free school meals systematically lose out in selective systems, the very group that the Government claims its policies are driven to support.

“Furthermore, selective systems disproportionately discriminate against children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. It is disgraceful that there is no mention of this group of children in the green paper.

“The NUT believes the Government must end its obsession with structural change in education and instead commit to fulfilling its responsibility as a Government to ensure there are sufficient school places for all children, that schools are fully funded to provide a high standard of education for all their pupils and that a sufficient numbers of qualified teachers are recruited and retained in the profession.”

1. See pages 3-4 of NUT consultation response

2. Question and Answer Session at OECD Pisa webinar, (18 November 2016).