Debate of the week: The science of selection

by Emily

Specialist schools are one of the most interesting developments in education of recent years. Designed to raise engagement and academic achievements amongst pupils, they also give youngsters the chance to specialise and excel in a particular field - whether that's sports, science, drama or modern languages.

However, according to one expert, specialist schools are not the centres of excellence they purport to be because they do not select pupils by ability.

Professor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, has told BBC Online that numerous specialist science schools "aren't necessarily good at science" because they don't select pupils on ability.

This is a problematic theory and one that could have severe consequences for many pupils if it ever came to fruition. Entrance exams in, say, English and Maths are one thing, but as the BBC article points out, it is difficult to test pupils in the sciences at a young age because "in practice it is difficult to differentiate between aptitude and ability for the subject".

This means that it would be very difficult to select - or indeed identify - pupils meeting Prof Smithers' dream criteria. As a result, lots of children who might otherwise find their feet and then excel at a science school might be turned away at the first hurdle.

When it comes to science, all we have to judge a child on is a set of arbitrary tools. What's more we would only apply those tools to one very specific area of the child's ability. Surely this would be very unfair and something that would deny a lot of children some great opportunities.

Here at First Tutors, we believe that all pupils have the right to excel. Let's not deny them that opportunity.