I noticed on another thread that someone said that schools should not put children into 'sets' in primary, as it doesn't fit with the new guidelines and the 'mastery' concept. However, there are frequently comments on MN from parents saying their child is in the top group or top set or top table or whatever.
DD is just finishing reception, and the teacher has told me that she is in the top groups for phonics and maths (not necessarily very significant: a 'group' may be half of the class). Following a friendship issue, the teacher has also informed me that, when she goes into year 1, my DD will not be on the same table as this particular friend as she's working at a different 'level'. I admit to being relieved at this, and also reassured that there is some differentiation, even in a one form per year school.
So, my question is: what are schools supposed to do, and what do they really do?
I think the issue is that some schools have children sitting in the same ablity groups for the entire day. The children develop a fixed mindset and see yellow group as the clever group and blue group as bunch of thickos. The reality is that yellow group may mostly have winter birthdays and blue group maybe a bunch of summer born boys. Blue group children sometimes stop trying and have terrible self esteem issues.
There is a difference between attainment and innate ability. The hot housed September born girl may not be as bright as one of the summer born boys. With traditional grouping the summer born boys are never given the opportunity to prove themselves.
My daughter's teacher have children working in different groups through out the day. Sometimes they are in mixed ablity groups and sometimes they are grouped by ablity. This stops children defining themselves by their ablity to produce neat hand writing. It also recognises that a child can be good at maths, but weak at English.
Yes, I think the mixing and moving are crucial. Ds's school has them on tables for literacy, tables for maths, and tables for mixed-ability other stuff, but every topic mixes the maths and literacy tables up a bit. And then there's challenge groups and support groups and random not-leavig-the-middle-oout groups, twhere half a dozen kids from across three classes will get taken off to do something different. I'm amazed how the teachers keep track of it all.
Obviously by end of Y2 they know who is most likely to be on certain ability tables but there's some mixing every week or two.
DD's class (Y5) sit on tables that are mixed ability (and are moved about every half term or so, so everyone works with different children). They are given work that has different "levels" and the child is meant to tackle the level they feel most able to do (and can then move on to harder work if they find it easy). The most able get extension work. Some children are taken out to work in smaller groups if they struggle with particular concepts.
DD is still pretty clear who is best in the class at maths, English ... despite the entirely mixed ability set up. IMO the set up works well as it allows a child not to be pigeonholed so much. It is (e.g.) quite possible for a child to be very good at one aspect of maths, but really struggle with another, and the ability table/sets arrangement doesn't cater for this at all well.
There's no 'supposed to' but I feel it's best not to group children and I don't in my classroom. However, that doesn't stop parents telling me that their DC have noticed they're not in the top group and asking what to do about it (there is no top group!!). IME children will always judge themselves against others so and so will always be 'thick' and so and so will always be 'clever'. It's an incredibly difficult mindset to change.
I've had experience of both methods, which suited my two ds's. DS1 was top table maths, and moved up two year groups. He absolutely needed this.
DS2 works on a lower table for literacy. He still does higher ability work, but needed to broaden his friendship groups away from a very dominant friend who was stifling him.
His maths teacher changes his tables every lesson.
Differentiation is the key, regardless of how it is done.
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