Over the summer, we have seen new research on grammar schools suggesting such a system doesn’t even help the highest performing students do better than they otherwise would, and we have seen a debate about new “elite” sixth form academies involving Eton, and the likelihood of them “creaming off” the most talented and reducing overall attainment within those communities.
There is plenty of evidence to support the contention that this sort of selection is counter-productive and damages the broader educational system. But that being the case, should we not consider the much more widespread use of selection in the college system?
Every college is highly selective, far more selective than schools, with strict entry criteria for almost every programme on offer, even at the level studied unselectively at secondary school 14-16. Could we be accused of being an engine of social immobility using your educational track record to keep you in your lane? What is the evidence this approach is best for the wider community if that cannot be said for 11 year-olds or selective sixth forms?
Like most colleges, we have been seriously concerned at the impact of Covid-19 on student attendance, but equally have been fearful of withdrawing or excluding students whose low attendance would not have been tolerated in the past. As a result, we have some rich data on the impact of attendance on student achievement and it is stark.