What subjects are your DCs set/streamed for in Yrs 7 - 9?

(34 Posts)
Perriwinkle Wed 23-Jan-13 19:58:29

I'm just wondering what subjects your DCs are set/streamed according to ability for in seconday school in the years prior to starting on GCSE courses.

From speaking to people with DCs at different schools, both state and private, I'm finding that there is quite wide variation. For example, in some schools they're set for all of the "core" subjects according to ability, maths english and science and in others a wider range of subjects, i.e. maths, english, science, humanities and languages. In our school it varies from year to year; in Yr 7 it's only for maths, in Yr 8 it's for maths and science and in Yr 9 it's maths, science and humanities. They're not streamed for ability in english or languages until they start their GCSE courses.

I would really appreciate any feedback from teachers on the relative merits of streaming. It seems to me that there are benefits to be gained from it as it appears to me (as a non teacher) that it may perhaps be easier to teach a group of a very similar level of ability and to be able to pitch the lesson appropriately and have more time to spend with the students rather than being taken away to explain things to those who may not understand or need more guidance. I think these children deserve to have the lessons pitched to their ability rather than being left to think that they "don't get it" when others do.

Do you feel that teaching to similar ability groups equals better results too?

In our school it's quite common for children who finish set work in lessons to be told to sit with a small group of others who haven't finished and help them, or to have a particular student nominated for them to work one to one with and help. The line that teachers often come out with is that the best way to learn is to teach! I have to say I have a problem with this and I'm not sure it would naturally happen so often in a class where there was not such a disparity between various levels of ability.

On the other hand, one new teacher has a "challenge folder" from which students who have finished their work are encouraged to take more work, which may be the next level up, more challenging or whatever. This seem like a good idea to me but I can't help thinking that it seems like common sense to teach groups of students who are at a similar level so they can all progress at a similar pace. That's what always used to happen when I was at secondary school way back in the dim and distant past!

Any thoughts gratefully received...

seeker Wed 23-Jan-13 20:01:22

Ds is in year 7. Set for maths,English,science, PE, music and MFL.

Startail Wed 23-Jan-13 20:12:39

English, maths, science, history, geog, MFL are Split into 4 sets. PE is split in half by ability and inclination. DD1 who, reads and sings, is in the bottom less competitive lot.
DD2 who spend 4 lunch times a week racing about after balls and waving hockey sticks is clearly not.

Art, cookery, textiles, drama and music aren't this means bugger all gets done.

DD1 does art, drama and music for GCSE and is hugely enjoying the lessons now containing people who want to do some work.

creamteas Wed 23-Jan-13 20:23:55

In my DC's school in years 7-9 they set for everything accept Art, Tech, PE, Music and Drama. The initial setting is based on primary results, but all groups are revised after the first half-term. After that, they are reconsidered formally at at the beginning of each year, but there is also often individual movement within the year.

exexpat Wed 23-Jan-13 20:39:17

At DS's school they were only set for Maths and French in the first few years. Oh, and I suppose you could say they were set for games too - compulsory rugby, DS was in the D team. But it is a moderately selective independent school so I suppose only has roughly the upper half of the ability range to start with.

I also wonder how teachers in, for example, year 9 science classes can cope if they have the whole range from G&T to children with primary-school level reading ability. Is everything done on an individual or small group basis rather than whole-class teaching?

Personally, I've always got a lot more out of classes where everyone is working at a similar level so everyone can participate equally in whole-class discussions and so on.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 23-Jan-13 20:46:57

Setting and streaming are two VERY different things.
Setting is generally a "good thing" IMHO
Streaming generally bad.

At DCs comp, Maths and science are set from Yr 7, everything else from Yr 8
There are two blocks of five sets per year so reasonable differentiation between the sets.

basildonbond Wed 23-Jan-13 20:54:42

ds1's school - 'informal' top and bottom sets for maths and English in y7 (but academically selective school so narrower ability range to start off with), 'proper' sets for maths, English, sciences, MFL, history, geography and PE for Y8 & Y9

ds2's school - streamed for everything except for PE and Tech - streaming based primarily on maths ability which suits geeky ds2 down to the ground. The decision about which stream each child should be in is mostly made before they start using entrance test score, SATs results and headteacher's report - three weeks in they have CAT tests and there's a little movement (not much) but mostly seems to be movement up - ds's class had 2 children join from the second stream but no-one moved down. Theoretically there could be movement at the end of Y7 but I don't think anyone changed at that point.

Perriwinkle Wed 23-Jan-13 21:16:52

What is the difference between setting and streaming TalkinPeace2? I, perhaps naively, thought it was the same thing - i.e separating children out into ability groups?

The reason I'm asking the questions I am about what goes on at other schools in terms of streaming for ability is because our school has just had an inadequate OFSTED report and been placed in special measures. At a recent parents meeting we were asked to think about how we, as parents, would like to see things change at the school and what we feel could be improved upon. Personally, I think that far too much teaching in mixed ability groups goes on at the school and this may very well not be a good thing. My feeling is that changing the approach could make a real difference in many ways. I want to voice my opinion about this but would ideally like to be ready to back it up with some "proof" if you like, of the benefits of it.

Obviously, not being a teacher I am accutely aware that my views on the subject could potentially be very quickly and very easily dismissed by the Head on the grounds of my ignorance and I would really rather that didn't happen.

I'm really very interested to hear what teachers have to say about the benefits of teaching similar ability groups as opposed to teaching mixed ability groups. Apparently our english department swear by teaching mixed ability groups and won't hear of doing it any other way! confused

At a partially selective comprehensive:
Maths sets from Oct half-term of Y7.
Science, Latin and German/French sets from beginning of Y8.
Everything else seems to be taught by form group.

If measured by A-level results, it's one of the best comprehensives in the country.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 23-Jan-13 21:24:24

Children are divided into ability groups based on a single criteria (average SAT score or 11+ mark) and that is their level for every subject.
So if they were dire at the choosing subject they are in bottom stream, regardless of ability in other subjects and vice versa.

As a generalisation, children do not move between the streams.

Subjects are grouped (Maths, IT, Science ; English MFL, humanities ; Art,Music,drama ; PE) and then children are assessed in the core subject for each grouping and split into sets.
So a child can be in top set for English and bottom set for Maths - allowing the most children to excel in schools with wider ability ranges.

Generally sets are retested and shuffled termly or at least annually to reflect differing rates of cognitive development.

Some schools swear by mixed ability - Thornden in Chandlers Ford do not seem to suffer from it, whereas Kings in Winchester set everything ....

choccyp1g Wed 23-Jan-13 21:26:14

DS's school, set for English, Maths and Science in Y7 based on SATS, including teachers assessments to start with. At half-term a few moves following CATS, then a few more moves at Christmas.

Everything else seems to be random, but they gradually set more subjects as they move up the school.

I'm not sure what I think of the system yet. My gut feel is that setting advantages the top sets, and the very bottom (who have a much smaller class size), but may dispirit the middle levels. I have this theory that most children work to expectations, DS was told in the first week that they are expecting As and A*s at GCSE for everyone in the top 2 maths sets, (assuming they put the work in of course) which is great for him, but I just hope they didn't tell the lower sets that they are expecting them to just scrape a C.

The nearby very high achieving (Catholic) comprehensive has changed to all mixed ability for this year's starters, but I suspect they will be telling them ALL that they are expected to get As

titchy Wed 23-Jan-13 21:26:48

Dc's school sets for everything from year 7 except for pshe. Most secondaries do IMO. Re English - our top set year 7 read The Graveyard Book, bottom set Alex Rider. Quite how an English teacher could justify a weaker kid reading the former, or explain how the latter would stretch a bright kid I do not know - no wonder ofsted weren't impressed hmm

cherrypiesally Wed 23-Jan-13 21:30:03

Setting is done on an individual subject basis, I.e. s student could be set 1 for maths, set 2 for maths, etc.

Streaming involves dividing a year group into groups, I. E. stream 1, stream 2 etc. All students will stay in the same stream for their subjects even if they are weaker or stronger in a specific subject.

Streaming is rarer these days, it was more common in 1950s- 70s.

A good teacher can teach the range of abilities in a class however sets are preferable in many core subjects.

I like teaching both sets and mixed ability. One problem with sets though, some children do have to be on the bottom set, this makes their parents unhappy and the complaints come in fast.

titchy Wed 23-Jan-13 21:30:08

Maths - top set doing Pythagoras, bottom set adding two digit numbers.....

webwiz Wed 23-Jan-13 21:38:28

My DCs school has very little setting - Maths in year 7, Science in year 9 and English in year 10 but it seems to work really well. DS was a late developer so it benefited him not to be put into sets too quickly. They were graded outstanding by Ofsted in September.

Perriwinkle Wed 23-Jan-13 21:43:08

Thanks so much all for the definitions of setting/streaming. I think I get it now and realise that back in the late 70s/80s I was subject to straming whcih explains why I struggled so much with maths and science - I was only in the higher stream because I was considered more able at english. I agree, that was a bad thing for me.

So, to the teachers among you, do you feel that it is more conducive to achieving better results when teaching sets or mixed ability? As a non teacher it seems to me that it wouold make life easier for all concerned to pitch the teaching to a level that's more easily accessible to all the group rather than having some who are really struggling and others who are nodding off and some who are in the middle.

I doubt that OFSTED would be happy to observe a lession in which the more able children who have finished their set tasks are effectively assisting the teacher in helping the less able students who are struggling to finish theirs. It strikes me this sort of thing would not happen so often in a learning environment that used sets.

JenaiMorris Wed 23-Jan-13 21:46:45

No setting at all in Y7, then set in pretty much everything Y8 and Y9. KS4, some subjects set, others don't.

The school does fine results wise.

cherrypiesally Wed 23-Jan-13 21:51:44

Perriwinkle- I teach humanities subjects, most year groups are mixed ability classes. We have to differentiate by ability, in 15 years of teaching I have never used a student to help another if they have finished. It is expected that a student will have work to challenge them/ stretch them instead. This is actually very easy to do in history/ geography.

However sets in maths and science may work better but don't teach those so don't know.

seeker Wed 23-Jan-13 22:05:40

I wonder if it is an urban myth, this using clever children to help others thing. It's a mumnsnet perennial, but I have never come across it in real life. I wonder of it's a case of child's eye view reporting?

"I'd finished my work hours before everyone else then I had to spend hours helping Daisy while Miss went for a cigarette......"

Perriwinkle Wed 23-Jan-13 22:09:37

cherrypiesally unfortunately students being asked to help others has happened several times in my DS's classes. I don't really think it's on. If students have finished their work surely they should be given something else to do to stretch or challenge them rather than being asked to help other who are struggling and being told "the best way to learn is to teach"?

There seems to me to be a feeling that some (not all) teachers don't want some students motoring on ahead and want to keep them all bobbing along at a similar pace. If that's the view then surely it adds weight to the argument that it's better to teach in sets so that teaching can be pitched to a level that's accessible to all?

TalkinPeace2 Wed 23-Jan-13 22:12:56

Not an urban myth.
DCs school has a mentoring scheme within and across year groups.
DD has often been put into groups with less academic children in the few mixed ability classes (PSHE, RE, arts) and it has helped her understanding to help them.
BECAUSE - having to explain what you 'just know' as first principles is the very best way to lock it into your brain (a bit like me stating basic tax stuff on forums grin)

Perriwinkle Wed 23-Jan-13 22:17:09

seekerare you a teacher or a person who spends a lot of time in classrooms? If you're neither, I suspect you're unlikely to come across this scenario in "real life".

I have no reason to disbelieve my DS when he's told me that he and a couple of his classmates have been asked in various lessons (usually humanities, french and spanish) to help other children - and they've invariably been asked to help the same children every time. Each time it's happened I've always asked if the teacher has been there and I've been told they have and on a couple of occasions I've been told a TA has been in there too!

Perriwinkle Wed 23-Jan-13 22:22:12

TalkinPeace2 Out of interest I just asked my DS (who really should be in bed by now!) what he thought about your theory of having to explain what you 'just know' as first principles is the very best way to lock it into your brain and his response was "well if it's already locked into your brain because you knew it in the first place what's the point?"

Just saying... grin

TalkinPeace2 Wed 23-Jan-13 22:25:21

but he's a boy grin - seriously though, DD found certain things infuritaing to be used as an extra teacher for, others really useful, but it DOES happen in all sorts of schools

seeker Wed 23-Jan-13 22:28:24

"There seems to me to be a feeling that some (not all) teachers don't want some students motoring on ahead and want to keep them all bobbing along at a similar pace"
Wwll, if they do, they are going to get a very nasty shock come OFSTED time!

A proper peer mentoring scheme is a very different matter than the "you've finished, you help Fred" that some mumsnetters talk about. And such schemes work very well for all concerned. Particularly if you think there is more to school than academic work.

Perriwinkle Wed 23-Jan-13 22:34:17

Yes, his response probably was a "boy" response thinking about it! I do know it goes on a lot and I suppose they might be able to justify it under the banner of "mentoring". My gripe is that it's usually the same children that they get asked to help and they're usually the ones who really have little interest and don't really want to engage with learning and I feel it's not the job of children to be used as TAs. As far as I can make out they don't particularly enjoy the experience and would even prefer to be given more work of their own to do rather than have to help!

seeker Wed 23-Jan-13 22:36:58

"and I feel it's not the job of children to be used as TAs. As far as I can make out they don't particularly enjoy the experience and would even prefer to be given more work of their own to do rather than have to help!

As I said, there's more to school than academic stuff.

Perriwinkle Wed 23-Jan-13 22:38:57

Agreed Seeker but what we're encountering is nothing as structured as a proper peer mentoring scheme that both parties could find mutually rewarding.

In this case it's totally ad hoc and informal and the children who are being called on to help are being asked to help the same children children each time and they're the ones who don't want to engage with learning. The peers in this case are by no means equipped with the skills to assist them. In many cases the trained and experienced teachers can't always deal with them themselves!

SomeBear Wed 23-Jan-13 22:59:47

DD is in yr 7 and appears to be set for every subject apart from RE, PE and DT where they seem to be put into random groups. She is somewhere near the top for maths & science and further down for English which she finds a bit harder.

I've no idea how this compares with other schools since it was a choice of this one or, well, this one. One of the joys of rural living! Ofsted think it's a good school and she seems to be keen to learn.

JenaiMorris Thu 24-Jan-13 09:26:16

I know at primary they often had to help each other on their tables (which was a form of setting).

A bit of informal peer support is very helpful - I remember this as a college and university student, from both sides (helper and helpee).

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 24-Jan-13 09:32:17

dd2 in year 7 is set for Maths, which is also your German set.

IIRC, dd1 was same, then in years 8 and 9, maths, science, English, French and German, and a 'humanities set' which covered History, geography and RE.

In years 10 and 11, the set for science is kind of determined by who's doing 3 separate, I think. Set for Maths and English, and the other things seem to be governed by which option block you chose them in.

wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 11:52:53

In year 7 DD was set for English, maths, science, MFL and humanities. Music, art, drama etc was mixed.

wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 11:56:07

GCSES will be set in all core subjects; English, maths, science, MFL. There are four sets.

Other subjects will depend on numbers as to how many sets.

jellybrain Fri 08-Feb-13 21:08:34

Ds2 y8 is set for maths and French. Will be set for German in year 9. Ds1 y11 is still only set for maths and MFL, everything else is taught in mixed ability groups.
I would say sets are great for those at the extremes but not always so for those in the middle.

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