ISSN 0963-8253

Volume 61 Number 1 2019


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Feeling Less Than Other People: attainment scores as symbols of children's worth


This article addresses how an educational purpose of social efficiency, such as the one we have in England, affects each child's school Life-history and the process through which children thereby come to identify themselves. The author considers whether schools could engage in practices that decrease pupils' resignation to a system that controls them, and enhance children's resilience; she also considers their resistance towards being unjustly controlled. She addresses this question by exploring primary schooling's relatively recent practice of grouping children according to their attainment scores on tests of maths and writing. She explores how such grouping may contribute to a perception of children as only as valuable as their test scores. With reference to a particular pupil, Wayne, who describes his school Life-history, the author emphasises how struggling with one high-stakes subject can lead children to a sense of being 'less than other people', even when a child has obvious knowledge and skill in other curriculum areas. She then previews a Leverhulme research project which has recently begun, which narrates and investigates 'Children's Life-histories In Primary Schools' (CLIPS) across five years of school, to identify the role played by attainment labels in children's social and cognitive development.

To cite this article

ELEANORE HARGREAVES (2019) Feeling Less Than Other People: attainment scores as symbols of children's worth, FORUM, 61(1), 53-66.


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