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Literacy and numeracy sets- a good idea?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by miss googoo, Nov 12, 2009.

  1. My school currently sets and have announced next year there will be no sets and we will teach our own classes with varying abilities. Is this the way forward- are there any schools who used to set and who had to change to this to? DO ofstead like schools who don't set?
    What's the consensus?
  2. Depends on whcih set you get !!!!!!,
    I much prefer mixed ability children and I find that the progress overall is better. My lower ability children have really caught on and my most able children have become more independent as I have to give them less time than my poorest (who have come on a treat (see first sentence) as they get more input being one of 8 rather than being of 28 in a poor class. See it's a round robin sort of thing. Many children are competitive and want to be better than someone else.
    I have taught sets too and got the lowest set for Maths and language.
    A nightmare as there was no-one, especially in langauge, to lead the way and when you are met with slience and blank faces it's a nightmare and no-one likes to make a start.
    I would vote for mixed ability all the time. Heavier on the planning but more rewarding and much better for the children.
  3. I've taught in both situations.
    I firmly believe that, if you have the opportunity to set in maths, you should do it. There is no doubt in my mind that children with ability (particularly in Y5/Y6) in this subject are held back by those who need consolidation and vice versa. In our school, the LA children are given time to consolidate and can have practical activities which enable them to approach mathematics in a variety of learning styles. Conversely, our HA children can explore abstract concepts and stretch themselves in areas which might otherwise be left untouched, e.g. algebra drawn from the KS3 POS. Today, my HA set were exploring complex ratio and proportion word problems whilst the LA set were approaching the same 'topic' by making muffins for their group, adjusting a basic recipe and working out the ingredients for themselves.
    English, however, is another matter....
  4. Yes!
    Adults tend to worry that this holds bright children back. But I grew up in the old Soviet Union where all primary classes were mixed ability, yet overall educational standards were pretty hot.
    What was common there but is little used here is getting bright children to help the slower ones. It was drummed into u from a very young age that u were lucky to find learning easy and so had the moral duty to help those less fortunate than u.
    It helped me enormously. I was pretty good at maths, but no genius, but because I was forever helping other kids with it, I became much better at it than I would have been otherwise.
    Seeing how many kids have trouble with learning to read and write here, this approach could be very helpful.
  5. Posted this in a similar thread but as long as the lower set doesn't become a dumping ground for behaviour problems, gets equal resources etc etc - I personally prefer setting. However I worked in one school that does very well in the league tables who essentially wrote off completely their bottom set - didn't give them a permanent classroom (so no displays to help, no resources easily to hand etc etc) - just didn't want to know about kids they couldn't push up to a level 4 and it made me incredibly angry having to do my best by these kids but with management not giving a stuff.
    I was very bright at school and lost out a lot because the class was so bottom heavy I got left to my own devices and when I was bored - I acted up to the extent that at one point I earnt myself an exclusion and got referred to an ed psych - who rapidly came to the conclusion there was nowt wrong with me - I was just bored witless... when I went to secondary and was setted for subjects - I thrived (well I hated the place but that's just the way things go). I still maintain that there are few things with more potential to cause mayhem within a school as a bright bored child.
    Even those on here in favour of mixed ability groups post about how the HA become independent as the teacher has to help LAs - but that's short changing those bright kids who've got the right to teacher time too.. not just to be left to get on with things because they can manage the task - you can extend their knowledge, get them to explain strategies back to check understanding - all those things that you don't get the time and focus to do when you're naturally having to run around helping those who can't master the basic concept. Going lower down the school - in a way it's crept in much younger with phonics - most schools I go in split the children into groups across classes for letters and sounds now - which is essentially setting for a narrow area of literacy.
    Perhaps it's un-trendy and out of favour at the moment but it's something I'm personally in favour of.
  6. You are correct with this too but even in a higher ability class you will still get the "bottom" group as you are unlikely to find 28 children with identical ability.
    The difficulty with setting is what happens year on in. Do children never progress to the next class and how to you deal with it when you have only 1 year 3, 1 year 4 class etc.
    Do you then get mixed aged children too ?. Setting may work in large primaries where there are 2-3 of each year and then you could really sort them out into Top/Middle/Bottom Year 3/4 classes and simliar with 5/6.
    The worst example I have seen of ability led teaching is in one school I used to do supply in. The school was on a tough council estate and very small. Thus Year 2 to Year 6 were taught according to ability in Maths and Language and there were 3 Year 6 boys sent to the Infants to be taught with some Year 2/3 children. How awful for them. Sometimes children need nuturing as well as teaching and this was no way to build their confidence. Hence they had to be physically brought into the classroom as they couldn't be trusted to get them themselves.
    Also I doubt that putting younger children with much older ones helpes either because they could be in the same "top" class for maths for years.
  7. And those bottom set kids may never move out of the room either !
  8. aspen_1

    aspen_1 New commenter

    From excluded child to strict disciplinarian?!
    For the OP - don't set - it's the only way to go in primary.

  9. WolfPaul

    WolfPaul Occasional commenter

    What nonsense, and yet another example of the obsession in primary eduction of process over outcome. What matters is the effectiveness of the teaching, not whether the teaching groups are setted or not. It's perfectly possible to have effective teaching in either case. Of course, each needs different skills and approaches. For me, I prefer setted groups - and it doesn't matter which set I teach, either.
    OP - always beware of educationalists who think they have the "answer".
  10. aspen_1

    aspen_1 New commenter

    Become acquainted with the research, why don't you!
    Whitburn (a study quoted by the Primary National Strategy on setting) 'A research study conducted by the Institute of
    Economic and Social Research involving 1200 children in one London borough
    concluded that there is no support for the view that lower Key Stage 2 children
    learn more effectively in sets for mathematics at any attainment level. The
    study demonstrated that the tail of underachievement was reduced and that the
    range of ability within the class decreased when children were taught in
    mixed-ability groups. Test results of mixed-ability classes were up to 7%
    higher than those achieved in sets. The authors recommend mixed-ability
    teaching, as it has social and equitable benefits for pupils.'
    NFER research study on setting showing 'Grouping pupils by ability in streams and sets has no influence
    on their performance. It can have a negative effect on the
    attitudes, motivation and self-esteem of lower ability pupils.
    Boys, pupils from working-class families and summer born children
    are more likely to be disadvantaged, says the NFER.'
    Professor Dylan William - one of Britain's leading assessment experts: 'Setting hits disadvantaged
    The school that a child attends has less influence on academic
    success than the subject sets in which they are placed, according
    to new research. As the debate on streaming and setting continues,
    the study from King's College, London shows that a child's position
    within the year group has a much greater influence on results.'

  11. I think it depends on the classes really. I used to teach a class set for English and Maths in a school where LA children also invariably had several children who were disruptive in with them. They rarely moved into the HA group and probably didn't benefit hugely from great teaching. The HA groups at that school were flying though.
    My current school is also set, but the LA groups would be 'average' by most school's standards and have fairly homogeneous ability levels which means I am not planning for such a broad ability range. In fact, the HA maths group has a much broader range of ability - from G&T to distinctly 'average' so their teacher has much more differentiation to cope with. I think my LA group has made a lot of progress, but we also we use lots of co-operative learning, similar to Masha Bell's description. There is also the sense in our school that there are children 'waiting' to move into the top set and that children there must 'keep' their place. Not sure how I feel about that though! It also means I have a HA English group with 35 children in it!
    Both schools had the upper set in one subject taught by the teacher who taught LA in the other subject, which I think is fair!
  12. WolfPaul

    WolfPaul Occasional commenter

    Research on setting is inconclusive; there are plenty of research finding to support setting as there are opposed. Most of the reports that do not advocate setting suggest that there is little difference in the outcomes for children - very few reports actively argue against it.
    Besides, educational research is notoriously unreliable, particularly in this area. Many researchers begin their sturies with the aim of producing a particular conclusion, and it is impossible to isolate setting as a causal link to attainment.
    So, I repeat: OP, hugely beware of people who think they have the "answser".
  13. aspen_1

    aspen_1 New commenter

    Such as?
  14. WolfPaul

    WolfPaul Occasional commenter

    "Fade or flourish" (The Social Market Foundation)

    "Setting in Primary Schools" (OFSTED)

    But, as I have said, trading educational research is a pointless exercise. There is no right or wrong "answer".
  15. aspen_1

    aspen_1 New commenter

    Do tell?
    I maintain it was an assertion - and one which even Ofsted were compelled to admit could not be supported through inspection evidence - quite the reverse in fact. Ofsted's agenda is determined by it's paymaster - the Government - hence the assertion that setting is best regardless of contrary evidence.
  16. WolfPaul

    WolfPaul Occasional commenter

    Look, even the short quotes you gave regarding the "evidence" against setting illustrate perfectly the unscientic nature of this so-called "reseach".

    NFER: "Grouping pupils by ability in streams and sets has no influence on their performance."

    William: "The school that a child attends has less influence on academic success than the subject sets in which they are placed, according to new research".

    Apparently setting has either no influence, or it's more important than the school itself! You pays your money and takes your choice with this type of "research".

    Things like "self-esteem" aren't scientific concepts, they're just made up by researchers, as are the "techniques" for measuring them, which rely almost exclusively on responses by children.

    The fact is that much alleged "research" in this area is coloured by ideological views opposed to setting, usually derived from a desparate wish to make everyone equal.

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