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KS2 setting - does it work?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by 2r2e, Mar 19, 2012.

  1. 2r2e

    2r2e New commenter

    Can anyone point me in the direction of any evidence base that they know of (one way or the other) about the effectiveness of setting/streaming in English and maths at KS2? Or any personal experience. Our progress for middle ability isn't great and we're trying to pin down why...
    Many thanks.
  2. 2r2e

    2r2e New commenter

    Can anyone point me in the direction of any evidence base that they know of (one way or the other) about the effectiveness of setting/streaming in English and maths at KS2? Or any personal experience. Our progress for middle ability isn't great and we're trying to pin down why...
    Many thanks.
  3. I worked in a school where they 'setted' for Maths in KS2, it worked well. Made teaching much easier. I still differentiated within that class. I felt that all the chn made good progress and the HA in that class really did forge forwards. Also it was good getting other chn in not normally in my year class, so that was a plus point too - well for me anyway!
  4. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    Last year I worked in a school where the children were setted for Maths and English.
    Plus: easier for planning, top set did very well, and were easy to teach.
    Minus: assessment was tricky - 60 pieces of work to assess (!!) in the one subject, I never felt like I really knew the children properly because there was a huge chunk of their education that I didn't teach, bottom set was a nightmare - all difficult behaviours lumped together in one place - it was constant fire fighting! In a creative lesson for English there was no 'spark'of wider knowledge...basically the middle lot were dragged down rather than up. From chats with my colleague, I think she felt the same about the Maths too.
    So, from what I experienced, on balance I would say I didn't like setting in primary. OK, it was easy to plan, but I really felt that the lower set were disadvantaged, that middle group in particular, and 'knowing' the children, having a rounded view of who they really were was shown to be a really important part of the way I work. (And that's before you add in parental feelings!!)
    Just my view, hope it's useful.
  5. 2r2e

    2r2e New commenter

    Thanks both, interesting perspectives.
  6. cally1980

    cally1980 Established commenter

    I worked in a 3 form entry that set into 5 literacy groups (3 main, a basic needs and a G&T) for Literacy and 3 ways for Maths and it worked really well. We didnt find that the lessons in the lower ability sets lost that spark, discussions were as animated, language was orally well developed and the progress was good. If anything, the children in the lower sets were MORE willing to contribute their ideas than when in mixed ability classes where they felt self conscious and sometimes even a little intimidated by the higher abilities. It meant that differentiation could go much further and we could really target individually and plan for the needs of the set. There were some children in my class who were in neither my maths and literacy set but I didnt feel that this affected our relationship. The set teacher assessed the children and dialogue between set and class teacher was frequent enough for progress to be tracked etc. I dont know if it works everywhere, or have any hard evidence but it worked well for us :). This year I have a class who range from 1c-3c and I have had to resort to teaching in 2 halves some of the time because it is really hard to teach one objective to such a broad range of needs.
  7. paulie86

    paulie86 New commenter

    We set for Maths and English in Year 6 and did set for maths in Year 5. In both cases 3 classes into 4 sets. (I think this is they key if the school can afford it.) My last school had 3 classes into 5 sets, using 4 teahcers and a HLTA to teach a parralel set. For Literacy we all planned together including the HLTA. The smaller numbers in the middle and bottom end really make a fantastic differnce in my opinion. I also think the top set to very well and can be pushed with higher level things more. We also have a separate group of sets for spellings, which I think really helps the children, teachers and planning. The bottom group can work on phonics, middle groups secure spelling patterns and top group tend to focus on extending their vocalbulary and improving grammar skills and ICT in Literacy.
  8. The research pretty consistently says that setting has a positive effect on the attainment of children in the 'higher ability' sets, but it has a negative effect on the attainment of children in 'lower and middle ability' sets, as well as a negative effect on the self esteem of children in the lower sets. It also says setting works better in Maths than it does in English, and that it works better for older children than younger ones.

    A lot of the comments above reflect what I've often heard: teachers claiming one way of organising classes "works" or "doesn't work". But the issue isn't whether a system "works", but whether a system "works better" than an alternative system. Setting might seem to "work", but there's no way of comparing the attainment in your school with what attainment might have been like in your school had you been using mixed ability groupings instead.

    Here are some links to research papers available online (sorry, TES won't create hyperlinks automatically in my browser):

    The Sutton Trust did a comparison of strategies that sought to raise attainment:

    Ireson et al in secondary schools
    Here's a summary: http://www.gtce.org.uk/tla/rft/group0504/

    A GTC Study, largely using Ireson et al

    Research into teachers views of setting and mixed ability

    The Primary Review also looked into setting, etc

    There's a lot more, but not publicly available, but try searching Google Scholar for abstracts to research papers.
  9. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    Thanks for these, Sulla. I'll look at them later. I'd never worked with sets before, and while it was an interesting experience it didn't make me particularly keen to repeat the experience.
  10. I know my anecdote isn't evidence, but... On long TP Maths was taught mixed Y5/6. I thought this was appalling: labelling, self-fulfilling prophecies, etc. On teaching the bottom set for almost a term, I came away thinking it was brilliant. The chn with no confidence never had to sit and listen to anything that was too hard for them and they never got to compare themselves to the high-achieving chn. Differentiating within a setted class meant it could be super-precise all of the time and their confidence soared. I understand why people would be against it but I was really converted. :)
  11. 2r2e

    2r2e New commenter

    Thanks sulla, those refs could be really useful to conseder when we come to debate it. Think the general view is in line with Lilybett but our progress scores for some groups make us question if setting is actually the best system for us or if there's something about the way the system is implemented that needs tweaking...
    thanks everyone
  12. I should add one major caveat to the research I listed the other day, one that Guy Claxton in his book 'What's the point of school?' makes:
    "The arguments about setting, banding and streaming, as opposed to mixed-ability teaching, should have been put to bed long ago, when it was discovered that the variable that made the most difference was not which method of grouping you chose, but whether the teachers who had to implement the system believed in it or not. Streaming gets the best results with teachers who believe in streaming; and mixed-ability likewise."
    In other words, it's not the grouping that makes the difference but the teachers.

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