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New research says selective schools "make almost no difference"

(35 Posts)
HPFA Fri 23-Mar-18 19:47:51

This story appeared in the Telegraph

www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2018/03/23/grammar-schools-have-virtually-no-effect-genetics-determine/

and the Guardian

www.theguardian.com/education/2018/mar/23/selective-schools-make-no-difference-to-gcse-results-study-says

and for statistical geniuses the source:

www.nature.com/articles/s41539-018-0019-8

OP’s posts: |
KingIrving Fri 23-Mar-18 19:49:15

Totally agree. It is not the school or teacher that matters but the student.

noblegiraffe Fri 23-Mar-18 21:12:32

While I like the findings of the research I’m a bit uncomfortable about Toby Young’s involvement in a study involving research into genetics and intelligence.

usr67 Fri 23-Mar-18 21:13:46

Something that doesn't seem to be getting much press (the Guardian article doesn't even mention it!) is that all the students in this study were twins. My impression from private schools is that twins are really unusual - partly for obvious financial reasons. I have less evidence for it, but I think twins may also be less likely than singletons to be put in for selective grammars, because of the "what if only one gets in?" factor. So I wonder whether the results would be the same or different for non-twins?

Mostly this seems rather unsurprising. GCSEs are so basic that I would expect their ceiling effect to make using GCSE grades as a proxy for achievement really problematic. It may be the first time since The Bell Curve that it's been allowed to say that genetics might actually matter to achievement, though!

Brokenbiscuit Fri 23-Mar-18 21:14:33

I'm not surprised by this at all.

BlueBelle123 Fri 23-Mar-18 21:22:55

If would of been interesting if they had selected another group from a non grammar area who attend comprehensives who had similar genetic profile to grammar to see how they performed in their GCSE's, if the study was to show the value of grammar/selective schools.

whataboutbob Fri 23-Mar-18 22:08:24

Isn’t the assumption that you can map intelligence/ educational potential to genes rather a contested one though?

MsBeaujangles Fri 23-Mar-18 22:35:32

Hmmmmm. I think this study swerves to map the relationship of specific genes with school achievement.
I don't think it challenge previous findings that approx. 50% of variance in achievement/ability (depending on what you think the tests actually measure) can be accounted for by genes/heredity factors and approx. 50% by environmental factors.
We know that the environment interacts with genes and so even genetic influences will be influenced by the environment - diet, toxins, stress etc. will all interfere with our genes.

kesstrel Sat 24-Mar-18 08:46:19

It's worth nothing that there are a number of limitations to the study, some of which are acknowledged in the paper itself.

Firstly, the study only measures the results of science, maths and English GCSEs. Those are the subjects that are most likely to be set in state schools, because they have the largest numbers of pupils, and because maths in particular is perceived as a hierarchical subject. So the potential influence of a lesser degree of setting in subjects like MFL or history in state schools won't appear in the analysis.

The authors also dont acknowledge the potential ceiling effect that arises from using GCSEs as a measure, and especially those particular GCSEs. (One of the really odd omissions here is that they refer to an "English" GCSE, but don't seem to specify which one - even though they explain about triple science, and that they used an average of the 3 scores for that.) Especially if it is English Language they chose to use, the ceiling effect in that particular exam would have a big impact.

By "ceiling effect" I mean that GCSEs don't measure broader learning "above and beyond" what is required to get an A* at GCSE: learning that will be especially useful for A levels and university, as well as worthwhile in itself . This type of learning is much more significant for those whose A levels and degrees will be in humanities subjects, IMO , which is why I am concerned about the narrow range of GCSEs covered in the study.

Still, it's an interesting paper, even though I don't think it can be regarded as definitive. I'd be interested in the views of scientists/ mathematicians/psychologists on the methods of analysis and the reliability of the adjustments they made to the raw data.

You can read the whole thing here: www.nature.com/articles/s41539-018-0019-8

kesstrel Sat 24-Mar-18 08:48:22

Oops, sorry, just noticed the OP posted the source already!

Taffeta Sat 24-Mar-18 09:21:44

usr67 - not my experience of twins

DD(Y7 grammar) has 4 separate twins in her class of 30.

usr67 Sat 24-Mar-18 15:10:40

Wow, lots of twins, Taffeta!

Interesting notes on the paper, kesstrel.

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Mar-18 15:26:29

the study only measures the results of science, maths and English GCSEs

But that’s necessary because they are the only subjects taken by all students.

Becky Allen is listed as a co-author so presumably the stats side of things is ok.

MrsPeaceGarden Sat 24-Mar-18 21:22:13

I’m looking forward to reading the full study later, but the idea that the success of grammar schools is measured only by exam results really bothers me. I have two daughters in a selective school – what follows is pretty personal, but I needed to get it out of my system. I apologise if you don’t think it’s appropriate for me to post it here.

When I was growing up, I was the brightest child in a comprehensive school. My teachers saw me as a problem because I regularly finished the work they had prepared long before the end of the lesson, so I learned to keep quiet and doodle in my book when I finished the assigned task. School became boring. I had no friends, because it was deeply uncool to be clever. I didn’t want to make anyone feel awkward, so I hid myself away. School became lonely. I became ashamed of who I was. I wanted more than anything to be someone different – someone normal.

Despite all that, I went on to get good A-levels and a degree from Oxford. But twenty years into my career, I’m still in an entry-level job. I think it’s because deep down a part of me still thinks it’s not cool to achieve. On paper, I’ve done well, but I’ve never achieved my full potential, I’ve never been 100% satisfied with my life, I’ve never been proud of myself. That’s the legacy of a comprehensive education if you’re bright.

I owe it to my exceptionally bright daughters to give them a better start in life than I had. I owe it to them to use my experience to make things different for them. I want them to come out of school with all the things I didn’t – self-confidence, ambition, and a belief in themselves and in what they can achieve. I want them to have friends who accept them for who they are. And most of all, I want them to be happy. That’s why they are in a selective school. Exam results don’t come into it.

roundaboutthetown Sat 24-Mar-18 22:02:09

MrsPeaceGarden - I think you are stuck in your own past, not present reality. My dss are at a comprehensive and think it deeply cool to be bright and academic. They also have no problem whatsoever making friends. When I comment on my own school experiences, they just think people were weird then... school is not like that now, apparently!

HPFA Sat 24-Mar-18 22:37:41

MrsPeaceGarden I'm really sorry you had a bad experience. But it really can't be expected that 80% of us should accept our children being labelled as failures because of people's bad experiences many years ago. My daughter's comp is also a school where it's definitely cool to be bright.
If you have found it hard to have confidence in yourself how much harder must it be if you've been told an exam has marked you as "not clever"? And please don't tell me that children don't know - my own daughter asked me why she hadn't sat the same exam as X in her class and did it mean she wasn't clever enough? Luckily X was going to an indie boys school so I was able to tell her that was the reason but it's nonsense to think that if 20% of her class were leaping for joy at passing an exam that she wouldn't have drawn the obvious conclusion that they were going to a "better" school than her.

OP’s posts: |
Ivebeenaroundtheblock Sun 25-Mar-18 04:00:07

i guess the bright children who's parents are motivated and involved really do do well regardless of what school they attend. and maybe those who have a very rough start will not excel in academia no matter what resources are on offer.

VoiciLePort Sun 25-Mar-18 08:46:09

You can't generalise though, can you? My goddaughter is having a similar problem to Mrs PeaceGarden at the moment, despite incredibly supportive parents. Luckily she has found two or three 'kindred spirits' at school and is resilient enough to work hard even though it's uncool, but she is very much isolated from the main student body. And she's only in Year 7 - will she be able to resist trying to fit in for the next six years?

meditrina Sun 25-Mar-18 08:55:11

They want to look at twins because it is a good way for controlling for genetic, household and some social factors. As long as the numbers are enough to be significant, or have been properly caveated that it is indicative only, it's a perfectly good aspect of methodology.

I'm not surprised by this - there have been similar assessments (grammars and leafy comps not scoring well on value added, but getting best local results, and commentaries on that, etc)

The role of genetics and early environment is always going to make people uncomfortable ,and what debate there is is going to focus on environment (something which can be changed) rather than the heritable aspects.

kesstrel Sun 25-Mar-18 10:08:21

Just because a study design makes certain limitations necessary does not mean it is not important to take account of those limitations when assessing the outcome. The authors themselves report the english/science/maths only as a "limitation":

A final limitation to note is that the GCSE variable we used in the analysis is a composite of only the three core subjects taken at age 16—English, science and mathematics. For other subjects, such as languages, art and social sciences, school type may have a greater influence.

If they think it is important enough to mention, it seems reasonable to comment on it. Discussion of limitations is standard procedure in psychology research.

roundaboutthetown Sun 25-Mar-18 10:08:32

VoiciLePort - I guess that's a personality thing. I would have no problem whatsoever with having two or three kindred spirits as friends. Why on earth would you hanker for more? I find large groups of people trying desperately to fit in with each other tiresome, especially as they always seem to be falling out and pushing each other in and out of their own groups. Why bother with that ridiculous pallaver when you've already got some nice, genuine friends who like you for what you actually are, not what you are (ineffectively) pretending to be?

All schools have different groups of children in them with different interests and different talents. It's what makes life interesting. There will also always be children who attract bullies, because their weaknesses and sensitivities stick out a mile and they react in ways pleasing to the bullies. Being clever and being academic are not weaknesses and do not inevitably lead to bullying. Plenty of lower ability children are at risk of getting bullied, children who "smell", children who try too hard to fit in, children who don't understand social cues, children who cry easily, children who get annoyed easily, children with speech impediments. The problem is not stupid children picking on clever children, it's schools which don't deal effectively with bullying.

DairyisClosed Sun 25-Mar-18 10:14:52

Very random study. It's not surprising thought. I wouldn't expect it to make a huge or any difference for intelligent pupils and only a minor difference for the stupid ones. But then again I've never cared much about grades and I'm certainly not sending my children to a private school for something so prosaic as A stars at GSCE.

starzig Sun 25-Mar-18 10:34:53

I went to the local secondary and from my year group the ex students now have a wide range of jobs (or not) from unemployed to doctors despite the same education. So kind of backs up that it is more the student than the school.

UserX Sun 25-Mar-18 10:49:32

here will also always be children who attract bullies, because their weaknesses and sensitivities stick out a mile and they react in ways pleasing to the bullies. Being clever and being academic are not weaknesses and do not inevitably lead to bullying. Plenty of lower ability children are at risk of getting bullied, children who "smell", children who try too hard to fit in, children who don't understand social cues, children who cry easily, children who get annoyed easily, children with speech impediments. The problem is not stupid children picking on clever children, it's schools which don't deal effectively with bullying.

So anyone who doesn’t conform will be bullied? That’s a disgusting viewpoint and kind of proves MrsPeaceGarden’s point.

willdoitinaminute Sun 25-Mar-18 11:22:43

So glad we’ve cleared that one up. I’ve always suspected that my academic ability was genetic and that it looks like DS has inherited the family ‘brain’, although my Dsis, who did a PhD in something to do with genetics had already hinted at it.
But, and here’s the big but, without the grammar schools my parents were able to attend post war we may not have followed the same path. We are in a position to choose fee paying/grammar/academy.
So I would conclude that it is opportunity, that complex lottery of birth that ultimately governs academic success.

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