Pupils have lower expectations and feel less confident in education systems with selective schools, a new international report into wellbeing has found.
Countries where the majority of youngsters do not attend a similar kind of comprehensive school, either because they are separated by academic selection or because they attend “different kinds” of schools, see pupil’s aspirations decrease overall.
Policy experts have said the findings from the first ever report on wellbeing from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) are a “setback” for the government’s plans to allow new grammar schools.
The report, which compares the experience of pupils in 34 countries and is produced by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), found one in six 15-year-old pupils in the UK say they were unhappy.
It placed the UK 38th out of the 48 countries surveyed.
But the report also warned that boys and girls in education systems that separate students into different types of schools tended to have “lower expectations for further education” than those in systems with a comprehensive approach to schooling.
Negative impact of selecting pupils ‘setback’ for government grammar plans
Pupils were particularly likely to have lower confidence if they were separated into different schools by ability before the age of 13.
Only 21 per cent of poorer pupils expected they would go to university in countries where they were placed in different schools by ability between the age of 10 and 12. Expectations rose if they were selected later, between age 13 and 15.
The findings challenge the government’s plans to lift a ban on schools selecting pupils by ability, think tank Education Policy Institute claimed.
In a press release accompanying the report, the think tank stated: “The OECD has claimed that there could be a negative impact of separating students into divergent school types.”
The report also added that social segregation, which the UK tends to rate relatively highly on compared to other developed countries, was “clustering” poorer pupils in lower-performing schools which might “damp down” their expectations and “belief in themselves”.
Findings prove UK students have ‘motivation to succeed’
A spokesperson for the Department for Education (DfE) said the findings showed young people had the “motivation and desire” to go as far as their talents could take them, but added that it was important pupils felt supported during stressful exam periods.
But Emily Frith, director of mental health at the EPI, said the report showed “significant challenges” for pupils’ well-being in schools. She warned that high internet use could be a coping mechanism for stressed youngsters.
She urged the government to research the causal link between internet use and wellbeing in particular, and work with schools to solve the issue.