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Mixed ability groups - what's your experience of it?

(8 Posts)
LovetheHarp Thu 08-Sep-11 08:58:23

Have just been to the Y2's introduction evening and we were told that the teacher does not believe in setting by ability so the class will be split in mixed ability groups. I was already aware of this as my DD told me what group she was in and one of the boys has severe issues.

During the same evening the curriculum that was presented was aimed at a 2b for end of Y2, which is fine except my DD is already close to that so that coupled with no ability groups made me wonder about how they will teach children who are beyond that?

Obviously I will go and talk to the teacher at some point about it, but wanted to leave her alone for now - does anyone have any experience of this set up and can it work effectively?

Thanks for reading.

newtermnewname Thu 08-Sep-11 09:39:48

When you say that the curriculum that was presented was aimed at a 2b for all did they give you any information about how they will cater for the higher ability children confused I would be extremely shocked if my DD was going to be taught to a certain level and no more, she like your DD was performing in literacy at a year 3 level going into year 2. I would raise your concerns with her teacher. Doesn't sound good to me.

IndigoBell Thu 08-Sep-11 09:46:50

There are many different ways to teach mixed ability groups. But there's no reason to assume that just because they're all sitting on the same table, they're all being given the same work.

They might all be given different tasks to do. Or asked different questions. Or the task might have things like 'must, should, could, challenge' on it, which means that one task does all the kids in the class.

I very much doubt they're aiming for your DD to get a 2b. They probably just didn't word it very well. All schools are desperate to get as many 3s as they can, because they are judged on this.

LovetheHarp Thu 08-Sep-11 10:17:58

Indigobell, that's my assumption too. I guess I am not familiar with this set up and how it would work - a bit more information is needed I think.

I like the idea of mixed groups in a way, as it is less divisive in a classroom - as long as everyone benefits of course.

My slight criticism was that the curriculum that they demonstrated was entirely 2b and so left us (and many other parents) in the dark as to what their children would be doing for the year. We had similar issues last year and progress for the more able children was limited, so my fears are a bit shadowed by that!!

admission Thu 08-Sep-11 10:34:58

They undoubtedly chose 2B to illustrate the curriculum because that is what an average pupil would be expected to achieve at the end of year2 as a minimum. I would hope that this is a case of the school having not thought through well enough what they needed to say at the introduction evening and that they should have been saying this is an ilustration but we will be stretching all pupils.
Obviously it has left you and other parents concerned and you do need to talk to the school teacher and just establish that pupils will be stretched to their ability rather than be educated to the lowest acceptable level. Whilst in some ways it might be appropriate to leave it for a month say and see how your child is doing, I suspect that you need to talk to the teacher and if necessary the headteacher ASAP. If you have previous "history" of pupils not being stretched this suggests that the school is not looking to push the brighter pupils but just concentrate on ensuring as many pupils as possible meet the minimum 2b.
Just to be clear there is absolutely no reason why a school cannot use mixed groups and still be pushing every student to achieve to their potential, this is about the school and the teacher's expectations of the pupils.

reallytired Thu 08-Sep-11 16:21:32

I'm amazed that you know so much about the curriculum. Are you a qualified teacher? There are many ways of differentating work and arranging the way that children sit.

When my son was in year 2 his class was organised in this way. It worked as children had individual targets. My son was stretched. Many countries do not have ablity tables and still do well in international tests.

It is very demoralising to have a "thickie" table and some of the children on the "top" table can become very arrogant. Sometimes being labelled as low ablity can demotivate children and make them distruptive. A label can become a self fulfilling prophery.

newtermnewname Thu 08-Sep-11 16:35:49

Too true, reallytired, too true. My DC's school group by ability tables all through school, and stream in the juniors. Certainly in KS1 there can exist an air of "I'm on the top table, na na na nah na" although thankfully only one or two children to my knowledge act that way. Mixed ability tables do seem to be a good idea in that respect, and would maybe go some way to blur the hierarchy that can go exist.

Stand by my earlier point though OP - I think you need to get some reassurance as to how they are going to stretch the most able (in discreet ways, obviously!)

LovetheHarp Thu 08-Sep-11 17:32:06

Why do I seem to know so much about the curriculum? Because it is a 2b? In that case the teacher said that, it wasn't my assumption.

The teacher said that the curriculum shown during the session was covering the NC and aimed at achieving 2b. It was pretty obvious anyway for a lot of parents whose children were 2b already or above and knew their children knew most of what was being explained.

I said that I like the no ability groups in my OP but was concerned that there was no mention at any point what was being done for the percentage of children who are already close to, above or in line with a 2b. After all why have a curriculum evening when you are not providing information for half or even a quarter of the parents there? It seems a little odd to me.

Also another reason the mixed ability group thing seems a little odd is that it is not being followed in the rest of the school - so it is for one year only, hence I have no experience of how it will work.

Many countries do teach as a whole class, I come from one of those, and believe me it is not better for the children that don't keep up. The pace is fast and if you don't keep up it's your problem - it is indeed the overriding philosophy!

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