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Trying to get comprehensive school to change mind about setting

(16 Posts)
Johnthedog Mon 24-Feb-14 19:44:33

Daughter is good at English. Her first mark at secondary was 6a. Nearly 18 months later it is 6a. Four reports have been and gone all saying she is making good or excellent progress but all said she was still 6a.

The school say English is not set. Not even at GCSE. Maths and languages are set. However the school says that there are no studies to say that children achieve better if setted so everything else is mixed ability.

I have looked and indeed it would seem that setting has an overall negative or negligible effect for a whole cohort. Has anyone got some good data for the more able child? I feel fed up for her. She says there are level 3, 4, 5 and 6 in her class. The school's response was that the able help the week and this consolidates the able-ones' learning.

There is a rumour that they may be considering banding in future for this year. Not sure what banding is, I think it maybe a very loose 'setting'.

Parents' Evening in 2 weeks so I need some ideas on what to say!

noblegiraffe Mon 24-Feb-14 19:47:54

Ofsted are on your side

www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9553764/Ofsted-mixed-ability-classes-a-curse-on-bright-pupils.html

PenelopePitstops Mon 24-Feb-14 19:49:45

You'll have no joy alone sadly.
Your best bet is to round up other parents to help your cause.

Johnthedog Mon 24-Feb-14 20:45:50

Noble giraffe - thanks I had seen that but I need evidence. As the comments below the article say, there is evidence for mixed ability classes doing well. Ofsted haven't said where their evidence comes from to form their opinion (!).

theendgame Tue 25-Feb-14 10:24:01

Talk to Potential Plus and have a look at their website, they may have some evidence to help you.

theendgame Tue 25-Feb-14 10:27:55

Oh, and the able helping the weak and so consolidating is definitely discredited and I think you should find research to back that up. Because one of the aspects of being able is that children often need less consolidation.

mercibucket Tue 25-Feb-14 10:33:31

if anyone finds the links to research about helping weaker students being discredited, could they post a link. thanksthanks

youhavetogothroughit Tue 25-Feb-14 10:35:45

Your daughter's progress (or lack of) seems to speak for itself. The trouble is there is just no transparency for the parents, as to what is going on in terms of how other children are progressing, compared to your very able daughter. It could well be that all the middle ability children are making amazing progress and your daughter has that same right. If they cannot provide the differentiation in class for her to make progress then she should be taught with similar ability peers, whichever class that happens to be.

When are Ofsted next in? Able children not making progress would be a real concern for them. I am shocked that the school are even admitting the NC levels, at the school my DS was at they would have just fudged the records (and did!). Have you actually seen your daughter's official record? That might make interesting reading! I'd put money on them having assessed her as a 6c on entering the school, on the official records at least!

Unfortunately, you have to rely on the governors (there should be someone who is responsible for able children), the LEA education improvement team or Ofsted to be able to see what is going on and advise the school accordingly, but if the school is fudging the record it will not be visible.

Potentialplusuk.org may be able to help point you in the direction of research.

Good Luck!

youhavetogothroughit Tue 25-Feb-14 10:37:43

Ha Ha cross posts

theendgame Tue 25-Feb-14 10:41:46

Kulik & Kulik 1982, 1987). Kulik & Kulik concluded from their meta-analyses that gifted pupils’ achievement improved significantly when they were provided with programmes specifically designed to meet their needs. When pupils are grouped by ability but cover the same curriculum, there is little effect on attainment.

From this: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00001359.htm

The problem is that the top end of the class will do better if setted if they are given harder work to do. But what the studies also seem to show is that other children do better in mixed ability classes.

You may have a better chance of persuading them to improve the quality of their differentiation than changing the entire system.

Blu Tue 25-Feb-14 10:48:35

Aside from the SATS levels, is your dd making progress? Is she achieving challeninging sophisticated work? Can you see any progress in the material she is writing? Any progress in the type of texts she is working with?

Yr 8 DS is in a comp which has a broad streaming system but actually sets across streams, so is quite flexible and responsive to ability and achievement levels and moves children about. He has been labelled G&T in English, and he too has stayed more or less on the same grade level. His teacher explained to me that there is often a plateau-ing effect, and that he should not become discouraged. It is true that they have been studying differnt forms - poetry, sonnets, epic poems, plays, chaucer, novels, shakespeare, and getting to grips with a wide range of literature, so I could see that they are staying at a level but across different forms.

You could ask about this? About what progress she has actually made - or not - against the recorded grade levels.

I also suspect that grade levels can be a bit random.

At parents evening they should be able to tell you and your dd what to work on to improve in each subject, how to achieve the next level.

theendgame Tue 25-Feb-14 10:52:35

Here we go:

Rogers found more recent research on peer-tutored dyads (high ability student paired with lower achieving student for collaborative learning of set tasks) and like-ability cooperative learning (high ability students provided with cooperative learning tasks to complete jointly). Effects for these options were moderately positive for like-ability cooperative learning (Arneson & Hoff, 1992; Coleman, Gallagher, & Nelson, 1993; Hollingsworth & Harrison, 1995; Kenny, Archambault, & Hallmark, 1995; Neber, Finsterwald, & Urban, 2001), but null for peer-tutored dyads (Brush, 1997; Carter, Jones, & Rira, 2001; Elmore & Zenus, 1994; Hernandez- Garduno, 1997). Neither the gifted nor other member of the dyad made any academic gain, but the lower achieving dyad member did “act more like a student”— probably not enough of a change to consider this a viable strategy for gifted learners!

So neither party benefits from able children helping weaker students, but when able students are paired with other able students there are benefits.

Johnthedog Tue 25-Feb-14 13:07:17

Thanks everyone. Will go to parents' evening better versed! youhaveto yes I have 4 paper reports from Year 7 through to last week which all give 6a as the level in English and all outstanding (bar last terms which was 'good') for progress. I am going to tell them she should be getting 'inadequate' for progress! The school was judges outstanding so no comeback there.
My daughter is very compliant and goes along with all of the 'helping other students' etc. My other younger child however is another story. My youngest asked the teacher when she could get paid as a teaching assistant (Year 2) and by Year 3 she had started up a ticket system whereby her classmates were allowed 2 tickets each to be exchanged for her answers. She announced her ticket system was working well to the teacher and us at a Parents' Evening which was a bit embarrassing for the teacher and us who were both clueless.

FastLoris Tue 25-Feb-14 20:45:28

I've also read about setting not being proven to work better, but I'm skeptical. I think part of the problem might be that studies compare the two systems when working at their best, and it may well be that the very best kind of mixed ability teaching, by teaching who knows exactly how to do it in schools where social and other factors contribute to it, works as well as anything. But the reality is that teaching within sets is EASIER to make work for everyone. So in the real world when schools have all kinds of other crap to worry about and their methods of mixed teaching are not necessarily optimum, teaching by sets is just more likely to work, at least for the most able.

I must admit I doubt you'll get far arguing the evidence with them. There'll almost certainly be people in senior management - those who decide the policy in the first place - who know more about it than you do and can win that argument.

But the fact is they're failing your child. Keeping an able and enthusiastic child working at the same level for three years is not OK. You need to make it clear that this is not OK and you want something done about it. It's up to them to then come back with what they're going to do, but that's likely to still be within the structures they have.

FriendlyLadybird Wed 26-Feb-14 10:15:30

Love the sound of your younger DD -- how very enterprising!

I can sort of get the idea of higher ability students helping those of lower ability in some subjects -- but I can't for the life of me see how it would work in English. English isn't about 'consolidating understanding' but about going progressively deeper into individual texts and making connections more broadly. I don't think that necessarily has to be done through setting -- but someone should be helping your daughter to do that.

However, one of the many problems I have with the NC levels is the implication that you make steady linear progress in all subjects. In most subjects, which are taught in a topic-based way in school, that simply isn't true. You learn about basic forces, for example, and then you learn about magnetism. Magnetism isn't more advanced than forces, so I wouldn't see it as a problem if my child (only DS in secondary school) got the same NC level for both. He isn't really making cognitive progress, as it were -- he's just getting more knowledge about different things.

It's the same in English, and if we had the old-fashioned type of grading (like they used to have in the Dark Ages when I was at school), your daughter would not be demotivated by getting steady A- in every essay she wrote, would she?

Grrr. All of this makes me so cross!

youhavetogothroughit Wed 26-Feb-14 13:33:16

Well I have to say, having moved DS to an Indie that uses various methods to assess (including NC levels) I actually do miss straightforward NC levels. Getting straight As does not 'cut it' for me. Anyone can get straight As; it simply depends on how high you choose to set the bar. It really tells you nothing about how you are performing within your age related cohort nationally.

At his new school, DS regularly got 100% in exams. We had no idea just what level those 'exams' were set at. No we were not jumping up and down thinking we had a genius on our hands - I simply then asked for NC levels. Only then did I accept that, yes, he was making good progress within the curriculum, the teaching was clearly very effective and he is in line to achieve very well in external exams.

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