Thoughts on setting?

(22 Posts)
findyourbacon Wed 31-Jul-19 20:05:12

My children’s primary school is considering introducing setting for English and Maths from Yr 1. I’d be really interested in hearing people’s experiences of this, either as a parent or a teacher. Thanks so much.

OP’s posts: |
Grasspigeons Wed 31-Jul-19 20:07:59

Im a parent and my view is that teachers can differentiate without chikdren sitting in ability tables at that stage and i prefer it when schools do that. My sons school did the whole chili challenge thing and it seemed to work.

stucknoue Wed 31-Jul-19 20:32:11

Ability tables are normal, pretty much essential as at age 5-6 some kids are reading chapter books others have barely grasped basic phonics, same for maths

RedSkyLastNight Wed 31-Jul-19 20:34:26

I think it's an awful idea, particularly at such a young age. The curriculum is such that all DC in a year group have to cover the same material anyway, so teachers should be able to provide appropriate differentiation within a single class. For it to work they'd have to be overlap and good progress in between sets otherwise the child in bottom set in year 1 because they are young in the year or matured later, will be destined to stay there forever. Sets are also no good for "patchy" chlidren e.g. if you have a child that is great with numbers but bad at geometry, what set should they be in? My DS was an excellent reader, but a very poor writer. If he'd been in a school with sets, he would have been in the "wrong" set whatever they did!

TeenTimesTwo Wed 31-Jul-19 20:44:59

I agree with RedSky . I would be worried how being in a lower set would impact confidence and progress at that age.

findyourbacon Wed 31-Jul-19 21:36:16

Yeah I pretty much share your thoughts but the head is convinced it’s the right thing to do for the school - I just wanted to have a balanced view before I air my concerns to the school.

OP’s posts: |
Nuffaluff Wed 31-Jul-19 21:49:09

Sets are a very bad idea. We used that model at my school for many years and have now gone to teaching our own class for everything. The children choose their own level of challenge in maths using the ‘chilli challenges’ with some guidance from the teacher. The higher attaining children are doing as well as they ever have. The middle and lower attainers are doing much better.
Sets give the ‘lower set’ children a poor view of themselves as learners and there is very little movement between sets.


YourSarcasmIsDripping Wed 31-Jul-19 21:54:43

It depends how it's done.

Sets are fluid at my school,you can go up or down. If you struggle with something one week ,or are really good at it you can move to that table.

Sets are different for many subject,including reading. So it won't matter if you struggle with maths but excel at reading.

There's also the "chili" type challenge (depending on the class) where kids pick what level they start at and work their way up.

There are plenty of opportunities of mixed ability lessons.

When they start a new year, the new teacher makes an assessment and the kids get moved around again.

Due to the demographics of my school you can have kids in the same class that multiply mentally two digit numbers and kids that still add 0 on their fingers. The lesson might be the same , but the difficulty will vary.

I think it can work depending on how it's done.

RedSkyLastNight Wed 31-Jul-19 22:02:47

YourSacasm what you are describing is mixed ability teaching within a class. Setting means that DC are taught in different classes in different rooms. So a child in Set3 can't decide to do something that Set 1 are doing that week, as there is a good chance that they might actually be being taught different things, plus the work of Set3 is tailored on the basis of the DC being less able. It can also be difficult for DC to move between sets as a set might be full, or a child moving up has missed being taught something, and the teacher needs time to get to know the children which they can't easily do if children are constantly moving about

YourSarcasmIsDripping Wed 31-Jul-19 22:12:51

I do apologise,I completely misunderstood.

Yeah, I don't see how that would work or benefit children in primary.

Sittinonthefloor Wed 31-Jul-19 22:16:40

If your child is likely to be in the ‘top’ set it would be good, not so goo otherwise.

bathorshower Wed 31-Jul-19 22:26:03

DD's school have ability groups for English and maths at least - she's just finished yr 1. I didn't realise this until part way through reception. When she was in reception, she moved around groups week by week, but things have been much more fixed in yr 1. The thing that concerned me was that she told me (without prompting) who was in the bottom/struggling group, for reading/writing at least. If she knew, then it can't have been a secret - apparently they even had different coloured books, though I don't know why. DD is in the upper half of the class, but I don't think the setup would have helped her if she'd been struggling. I haven't brought it up, possibly selfishly, as DD isn't losing out.

PathOfLeastResitance Fri 02-Aug-19 12:07:12

bathorshower I haven’t worked somewhere that streams and the children still know who is stronger or weaker in a class.

Switchsplash Fri 02-Aug-19 20:10:09

DS1 was put into the bottom sets when he was in year 1. He was told at the age of five that he was not capable of doing the same work as his classmates. Five years on he is still suffering the consequences of this.

Every teacher he has had since in and out of school including drama teachers, tutors, swimming coaches and singing group leaders, as well as his parents, grandparents and uncles have spent years trying to convince him that he is perfectly capable of doing anything he sets his mind to. Unfortunately, the message he received so early in his education has stuck. I am so glad that DS2 is not put into sets.

BringOnTheScience Fri 02-Aug-19 20:27:33

Where I taught, we sort of had sets for maths, but it changed constantly.

We had 3 parallel classes. On Monday we'd do the same maths lesson that introduced a new thing or assessed a previously taught topic. Then we'd mark that afternoon and pick out those who'd 'got it'. Tues, Weds, Thurs there'd be 1 class doing stretching work & 2 learning & consolidating. Friday was for a quick assessment then maths games & practical challenges.

This enabled us to always cater for the ones were good at number but weaker on shape, for example. We took it in turns to be the lead on the extension set, so the teachers had fun too.

The only time we set 3 ways was for teaching Time.

careerchange456 Sun 04-Aug-19 07:17:18

Setting is so against current thinking that I'm really surprised any primary school would be changing to that model at the moment, particularly with KS1 classes. The research shows that mixed ability groups are also far better than being sat in ability groups in terms of outcomes for all pupils. As a KS1 teacher, I don't use ability groups for anything other than 20mins guided reading a day and even then, a lot of schools are moving towards whole class guided reading because it is having more impact.

Norestformrz Sun 04-Aug-19 13:56:05

Education Endowment Foundation findings

Witchend Sun 04-Aug-19 15:57:15

It's interesting that any discussion on setting on mn is always anti setting because it's discouraging for people put in lower sets.

However I did some work with teens around their feeling on setting. I looked at children at a variety of places, and all doing either a group discussion or individual questionnaire. The top sets weren't that bothered either way generally, perhaps slightly anti.

However from the second set downwards the feeling was stronger and stronger that they did better when set. They said it was really hard being given work and seeing people in their class being given harder work and completing it easily and without struggling. They felt they could ask for help more and feel that they could ask for more time, say they didn't understand and that people around would feel the same way.

I went in to talk to them expecting the feeling to be the other way round. I was quite surprised. The main negative said about setting was usually to do with either being split from friends, or pressure from parents who thought they should be higher.

careerchange456 Sun 04-Aug-19 16:06:55

But the OP was talking about setting from Year 1, hugely different to teens.

Anecdotally, my year 2 class, without even realising what they were talking about, said how much they liked my class because they saw much more of me and my TA because we weren't always sat with blue table (historically the lower ability table in my school).

Norestformrz Sun 04-Aug-19 16:58:47

Witchend the evidence suggests that setting in some subjects may be beneficial for higher ability groups at secondary age but not in primary

TeenTimesTwo Sun 04-Aug-19 20:00:28

Witchend I am very happy with sets in secondary, but not in KS1!

I think in KS1 too much would be down to:
- prior experience at home
- age
- ability to sit and concentrate

But if children get the message they are 'bottom set' and teachers treat them that way, it becomes self fulfilling.

However by late primary / early secondary DD needed to be away from the top kids especially in maths as they were actively sapping her confidence.

MrR2200 Tue 06-Aug-19 15:21:03

Setting for a few lessons can be fine for quick wins where there are common areas of need and these are highly fluid and responsive to recent assessment. We still do this now and again for a lesson or two at a time.

But as a rolling practice, I think it's a big mistake in primary (and there's a lot of evidence against its efficacy).

First of all, it doesn't cut down the range of abilities in the classroom all that much. Most children fall into a bell curve which means that in the majority of cohorts the lower-middles of the lower set and the higher-middles of the high set would be closer to each other in general aptitudes than the lower-middles with the low-lows or the higher-middles with the high-highs. They might be stronger or weaker in different areas but with the average primary cohort size, you'd only have two or maximum three groups -- far too blunt an instrument to make much of an impact and an impediment to the majority of children around the middle.

I also found that moving between sets was very difficult because they would be taught different things making that jump harder. I've observed classes where they got around this by doing lessons in parallel but the lessons were so close it hardly seemed worth setting in the first place.

It's also not necessarily a recommendation that lower-attaining pupils are more comfortable being set -- yes, they may find the work less challenging but, to paraphrase Bart Simpsons, you can't catch up by going slower. I would guess most of these children actually need extra intervention and scaffolding to keep up with the bulk of the group.

Finally, in primary, the huge benefit is having one teacher know the children really well. In my experience, the benefits of knowing the children well generally outweigh the difficulties thrown up by a large ability range.

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