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Does anyone have experience of mixed ability for ks3

(35 Posts)
lindsey077 Tue 07-Jul-15 13:49:24

My daughter is in y5 and we're starting to visit secondary schools - we live fairly rurally and only really have one school in catchment along with a girls grammar which she is sitting the 11plus for in September.
We viewed our main local school yesterday which seemed fine but my worry is that they have all classes as mixed ability, including the core subjects until ks4. She's a fairly bright girl and her teacher seems to think she has a good chance of passing her 11plus but we've not been able to afford regular tutoring which in our area I'm worried will disadvantage her. With this in mind I'm concerned that being at the brighter end of a school that has had all of it's brightest pupils skimmed for grammar will mean she will not get appropriate teaching, especially in maths.
I'm hoping I'm wrong and that it's more common than I think, the head is new and seemed to think it works but didn't inspire too much confidence!
Any experience/advice would be appreciated greatly.

TalkinPeace Tue 07-Jul-15 14:14:50

Ask to speak to the head of Maths about how it works - as maths is the subject with the widest ability spread in KS3

most other subjects, well planned mixed ability is not an issue if they have really good pastoral

pollyisnotputtingthekettleon Tue 07-Jul-15 14:19:05

Dd finds the mixed ability classes frustrating. E.g one girl in English struggles to read and her turn takes ages and distracts from the meaning, luckily Maths is the only non mixed class. Other arty things /sport/drama is ok.

ExpressNigel Tue 07-Jul-15 14:20:53

Our (oustanding) comp sets for maths, PE and languages in KS3, everything else is mixed. Teachers write lesson plans that take account of different abilities in learners and offer differentiated homework. Good schools deal with this well. Less good schools don't.

muminhants1 Tue 07-Jul-15 15:41:12

Our comp sets for Maths and English in year 7, and then adds sets for science and MFL in year 8.

Bramshott Tue 07-Jul-15 15:44:28

The comp DD1 is at only sets for Maths and Languages at KS3 (and possibly also KS4?). Apparently they got better results across the board when they switched to mixed ability classes.

But I would agree that it's possibly challenging in Maths. DD1 has really come on in Maths in Y7 and I think that's partly down to being in a set with people who are at a similar level, and not with all the super Maths high-achievers where she just sat there looking bemused (all through primary)!

Chokingonhollister Tue 07-Jul-15 15:53:19

Ours sets for everything apart from drama and art. I was dubious about pe setting but dd has some Sen and its seemed to work for her.

lindsey077 Tue 07-Jul-15 16:08:31

Thank you all for your replies. I've never come across a school that sets in the core subjects before and after reading your replies it seems rare. I wouldn't mind at all for non core subjects, humanities etc. my main problem is with maths and also science to a degree. I will arrange a meeting with the head of maths, but I am worried that they can say the right things but in practice it must be difficult to teach the top and bottom of the class well enough.

noblegiraffe Tue 07-Jul-15 16:50:54

I'm a maths teacher and I would not send my child to a school which didn't set for maths from Y7.

I suppose you could look at their maths results on the DFE website for the school. It will show you what percentage of low, middle and high attainers make the expected progress in maths, you could then compare this to other schools in the area. If the school has found the magic key to mixed ability teaching for maths, then it would show up in their results there.

BackforGood Tue 07-Jul-15 17:36:15

Not what you want to hear from me either, I'm afraid.
My dds go to a school that doesn't set for maths - they both hate it and feel there is so much time wasted in every lesson, going over stuff they grasped in about Yr3 sad
In their school, it's down to each department what they do. My dds enjoy (and flourish in) the subjects where they are set, FAR more.

That said, if it's your only school, then what choice do you have?

TheFallenMadonna Tue 07-Jul-15 17:40:29

Mixed ability Science at KS3 is fine. Obviously it depends on good teaching, but that's true of sets as well.

littlesupersparks Tue 07-Jul-15 17:45:37

I'm an English teacher. We don't usually set until year 9 but we sometimes set in year 8. We often mix up the groups in year 8 but keep them mixed ability. We take each year group separately and discuss as a faculty exactly how we should do it. So I'm not against mixed ability in general. I don't really like blanket policies in either direction though. I'd definitely speak to the head of maths though as I think it's quite rare not to set in maths as I understand that different levels do very different work. I would argue that that's quite different in English though.

woodlands01 Tue 07-Jul-15 18:22:49

I am a Maths teacher and have seen various models. Mixed ability in year 7 works in most subjects but not Maths - Maths needs to be set immediately or at Oct half term for effective teaching.

cansu Tue 07-Jul-15 18:28:27

I am a teacher. This will not be good for your dd. Regardless of all the platitudes about differentiation, this takes an exceptional teacher to make this work. I don't think it's good for the children at the top or the bottom, although it may help the middle ability group.

pollyisnotputtingthekettleon Tue 07-Jul-15 18:31:52

I agree they teach to the middle,. 3A and 6 levels is a big difference ... so middle some 7/8 sub levels ... how do they splits the work/ groups because it wont be an evenish split.

lindsey077 Tue 07-Jul-15 18:33:26

Thank you so much for All your replies, I will check the above website for expected vs achieved results but the majority of posters have echoed my concerns. It is our catchment school but there are two reasonably close alternatives that we have a good chance of getting in to, it would mean a second car and a bit of commuting but I think it's important she gets the best education we can manage. I was sent to a failing secondary and have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about it!

Millymollymama Tue 07-Jul-15 19:58:57

There can be huge differences in English attainment on entry to secondary school. As wide as maths. If children struggle to read they are disadvantaged in many subjects. I thought Ofsted were pushing sets and were not happy to have all ability teaching. It almost certainly slows down the bright children. I am sure the Head is looking at his middle attainers when saying pupils benefit. How do the high attainers do at this school in comparison to ones that do set, or even the grammar school?

sunseeker66 Tue 07-Jul-15 20:44:03

Yes my dd's school are all mixed until year 9. I didn't know they streamed until dd started.

It hasn't worked very well. She is coming to the end of year 8.

She is very bright at all subjects apart from Maths. She was placed in set 1 , then moved to set 2 because of her Maths, but because she is so far ahead in other subjects she is back in set 1 again and struggling with the Maths.

We had so much trouble with her Maths teacher, he put so much pressure on her and it only stopped when I went in and had a go at him. IMO he is rubbish at teaching mixed ability.

I wanted to move her, but she begged me not too as she was so settled.

I don't understand why the school do it, they only have an intake of 120.

I would avoid that secondary school if you can and choose one that sets from Year 7.

lindsey077 Tue 07-Jul-15 21:30:35

This is the school
The grammar is obviously the best choice, attaining 100% a-c for all but one of the past five years and 99% in the other. This one has 49% last year, the results have dropped in the first year that the new head was in charge for a whole year. Not looking good really.
The school used to be known for not being the best but it's reputation has been improving for the past five or so years, I wonder if they began mixed ability as they had more below average children and this way of teaching is better for them. The head seemed to brush my queries off and said studies show no difference in mixed ability classes but I'm struggling to find much evidence to support his view.

pollyisnotputtingthekettleon Tue 07-Jul-15 22:43:25

Just googled it... it is down to gov who see an improvement in middle/lower attainment at the expense of higher achievers - not good reading if you have higher ability child.

redskybynight Wed 08-Jul-15 12:25:08

Interesting as my DS is starting at a school that has mixed ability classes, in September. His school does "roughly" set for maths though (i.e. the top third of the year are put into "higher" groups, the rest are mixed ability).

I'm also a bit uneasy about it, but prepared to "suck it and see".

In terms of overall achievement, our next local school which has a broadly similar intake sets in everything from day 1. The two schools results are virtually identical.

Millymollymama Wed 08-Jul-15 14:55:02

Thank you for the link. It makes interesting reading. The high attainers are doing ok based on the 2014 information but the middle and low attainers are worse and will be causing concern at the school. They did get a Good from Ofsted just over a year ago but Science and English are in the 4th and lowest quintiles and the EBacc, largely applicable to the high attainers, is not very good either so it would not fill me with confidence. The children making expected progress is not good either but better for the higher attainers where a much higher percentage make expected progress but these are the only children in the "plus" column for value added and not even then at the lower confidence level. The maths progress is the best! I would be more worried about the English and Science if I were you!

You cannot really compare year on year results because cohort mixes are different but I would like to see healthy progress results and they are not, for 2014. However this is a very small school and I wonder how much this contributes towards teaching methods and the inability to be creative. I would expect the 23% of higher attainers to be put in sets and the lower ability children also. This leaves the majority of children in the middle and they would be 2 sets. The higher attainers GCSE average grade is a B so this compares with our secondary modern schools where I live. The grammar schools are A or A+. I would suggest this is not a comprehensive intake in the true sense of the word because the high attainers are not achieving the grades you would see in a grammar school (our small number of middle attainers get B in our grammar schools). The middle attainers in this school get C-.

I would look at the pupil progress data for other schools you may be able to access, especially for the higher attainers, what their EBacc profile is like, their exam results and attendance. Persistent non attendance is also a problem here. I suspect the 2014 data is worse than the 2013 data and it is really difficult to know if 2014 was a blip. I am never over keen on schools without 6th forms and with only 550 pupils, is sport, art, music and drama up to scratch? There are so many private schools around this area, I think a lot of brighter children are just not in this school.

redskybynight Wed 08-Jul-15 15:10:38

Lots of schools had lower results for 2014 - due to the late change to English GCSE. Our local secondary has a similar blip for last year. As OP only has a Year 5 child, would be interesting to see if this year's results have reverted to the former level.

thehumanjam Wed 08-Jul-15 16:57:43

My sons school sets for everything except art, drama and PE from year 7. Ds has been set for Maths since year 3! I would worry about a school that doesn't set for Maths. One of the secondary schools that I went to as a child got around this issue by giving us workbooks by ability. It didn't work. We had no teacher input at all.

mummytime Wed 08-Jul-15 18:13:28

There are ways of teaching mixed ability Maths, that I would love my DCs to experience. You need to look at the work of Jo Boaler and Carol Dwerk. (I think I got the names right.)

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