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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 17:45 GMT
Extra tuition 'backfires'
Extra lessons and advice: Sending children in or out of school?
Education experts have suggested that targetting children who are reluctant to stay on in school for extra lessons can be counter-productive.

A study by Durham University found that forcing pupils to have extra coaching, mentoring or careers advice might result in them achieving even less than expected.

Researchers said children singled out as needing extra encouragement to stay in education ended up with lower GCSE grades than pupils of similar abilities who had not been picked out.

For the study, 120 pupils at 15 secondary schools were identified as "under-aspirers".

Many did not want to stay on at school.

Extra tuition

Researchers told schools the names of half the children and many were offered extra tuition and counselling.

But the research found that in 12 of the schools, those who were identified as under-aspiring scored lower GCSE grades than their peers who were also reluctant to stay on at school.

Professor Carol Fitz-Gibbon of Durham University said the findings challenged the notion that if you push children they do better.

The findings have been questioned by people involved in teaching.


The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford said he was suprised by the conclusions of the research.

"Schools work increasingly hard to give extra support to children who find school work difficult and any suggestion that this has a bad effect is dissappointing," he said.

"In my experience if the school approaches it in the right way, children welcome the extra help.

"I don't think anything in this report will deter schools from helping students who need it - after all that's what many of us came into education to do."

But some other education experts agree with the view that singling out children for extra help can do them more harm than good.

Bethan Marshall, education lecturer at King's College, London, said government policy was harmful.

"If you are identified as thick, then you think you are thick and you don't improve.

"We are labelling children from seven onwards and then setting them, instead of keeping them in mixed ability groups where the teacher's expectation of the class would be higher and the work more stimulating."

See also:

28 Jun 01 | Education
Call for more vocational courses
27 Jul 99 | Education
Ban exam 'abuse' says teacher
01 Mar 00 | Education
Exam targets dismay teachers
23 May 01 | Education
Parents add to exam stress
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