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How important is 'setting' children in terms of ability at secondary school?

(21 Posts)
gingertoo Thu 01-Oct-09 11:06:20

I'm really happy with my choice of school for DS1 for next Sept. Have had a good look round and like it - it has outstanding OFSTED and 75% A*-C (inc Maths / English pass rate) GCSE pass rate - all good..

The only thing I'm slightly suprised about is that they do not 'set' pupils by ability at all in Yr7. Then they only set for Maths and French from YR8 onwards.

Is this usual?
Do the secondary schools you know of set pupils earlier and in more subjects?
Is setting a good or bad thing??

murphyslaw Thu 01-Oct-09 11:54:01

My eldest is in Year 9 now. There were sets in year 7 for Maths. In Year 9 he is in sets for Maths and Science.

Not sure when sets will be established for other subjects.

I actually believe they are a good thing. He is a great Mathematician and was getting bored in primary school even though the teachers were doing their best to push him along. He is now grouped with 30 equally abled children so the class can develop at the appropriate pace. So I am for sets.

bruffin Thu 01-Oct-09 12:25:29

DCs, school seem to be the only school locally that set from Yr7. The set for Maths and English, then Science and the rest of the subjects in another set.
This seems to have worked very well for my DS except that he was put in the top class for German and French, even though he is SLD when it comes to writing/spelling so lacked confidence and would have been better off in a lower class, we got him moved down in Yr8.
DD has just started to early days.
Although it is a comprehensive with mixed abilities it's a school where you are not "uncool" to be academic.

notagrannyyet Thu 01-Oct-09 12:34:53

I think sets are very important.

I've had 6 DC go through/are going through secondary school.

The eldest were only set in french & maths from year 8 and science from year 9. Everything else was mixed until GCSE options.

Nearly all subjects are set now. DS5 is in year 8 and only as mixed ability tutor group time, PE and whatever they call PHSD nowdays.

Top sets get lots of extra homework and the very top sets get to do some GCSEs at the end of yr9(science moduals, maths & statistics). Those who get an A can start AS maths in year 10.

tots2ten Thu 01-Oct-09 12:34:54

dd1 has just started comprehensive, and has been set for Math, English and Science. I think its a good thing, as dd is very good at science and english, but struggles with maths (so is in a lower set, which is a smaller group so they get more attention).

They have just had 'in-house' tests in maths, science and english and will be re-set after october half term, based on the results.

dd1 is with her tutor group for all other subjects.

Grav1 Thu 01-Oct-09 13:07:16

My dd is in year 8 and has been put into sets for Maths and Science. The school assess the children in year 7 by means of term tests and end of year exams and then set them at the start of year 8.

gingertoo Thu 01-Oct-09 14:50:51

Thanks everyone.

I'm concerned that Maths is not set in Yr7. DS1 is an able mathematician and is 'free wheeling' in Yr6 (although we are in the process of trying to rectify this) so was hoping he would be challanged in Yr7... going to have to look at this a bit more.

Also worried about Science not being set at all throughout the school (in fact I'm starting to wonder whether I've misunderstood this!) I can't see how they can teach a pupil to A* standard in a class where there may also be pupils are struggling with science..maybe they set in Yr10 / 11?? (not saying DS1 is A* material by the way but if he was I want him to have the opportunity to be taught to that standard!)...

Going to call the school to clarify, I think, and try and find out (without sounding like pushy-mother-from-hell!) what provision they have for able children

michcat Thu 01-Oct-09 14:55:52

I know exactly what you mean.

I always felt that my daughter would do better in a school where the children were in 'sets.'

However our choice was the local academy which had sets but Gsce a to c grades 30%, ofsted satisfactory. Local secondary , sets and gcse rate of 17% (did better this year though) ofsted satisfactory. Girls comp in area with tutor groups until yr 9 and sets for maths, gcse pass rate (A to C) 65%, ofsted outstanding.

Obviously grades aren't everything and we got the best 'vibe' from the worst performing school, but first choice was the girls school with reasonable gcse results, but no ability streaming.

She started yr 7 this September and we are very happy with the school so far.

Hope you get your preferred school...scary time isn't it?

GrungeBlobPrimpants Thu 01-Oct-09 15:03:09

Hmm. Most secondaries here set for Maths, Science and English (and some for MFL) in Y7 and certainly by start of Y8. Maths always seems to be first to be set (usually in first term) because the discrepancies are v obvious early on. Each school has a slightly different way of doing it, though. May be worth a call to ask why?

ADifferentMe Thu 01-Oct-09 15:45:41

Setting works well if your child ends up in the right set [disgruntled emoticon needed]

DD2's school lost her SATS results, wouldn't believe what we told them, ignored the CAT results which backed us up and put her in a low ability set. By the time they agreed they were wrong, she'd dropped back and in Y9 has only moved from a 5L to 5H in two years. We now need to pay for tuition to get her confidence back.

The school has now abandoned setting for English (she was in the top one) because they said it led to a concentration of badly behaved kids in the lower sets.

LynetteScavo Thu 01-Oct-09 15:55:20

ADifferentMe, the same thing happend to my DS when he started Junior school.

SATs were ignored, and he was put in a very low set. I too had to fork out for a maths tutor to help him keep up with where he should be.

gigertoo, I share your concern, the high school I looked at yesterday with DS doesn't set in Y7. Sounds strange to me, and I have queried the teachers about it. The shcools results are good enough to convince me they know what they are doing, though.

MrsBartlet Thu 01-Oct-09 15:59:06

I was very surprised when we looked at school for dd (now in Y8) how little setting most schools do, especially at first. I cannot see who benefits from this. If you are bright then how can you be fully challenged and stretched when the same teacher is having to explain things to those who are struggling? And surely it must be demoralising for those who are struggling to watch others grasp things more quickly. This is one of the reasons dd goes to a grammar school as I couldn't see (and nor could any teacher explain to me) how they could stretch her and allow her to fulfill her potential in a mixed ability class.

snorkie Thu 01-Oct-09 16:02:59

It's been shown to be more important to set for maths than other subjects apparently. I think it's quite common for schools not to set at all in the first year though.

roisin Thu 01-Oct-09 20:20:28

I was surprised that ds1's school had a policy of not setting in yr7 either. Instead they were taught all subjects in their mixed ability form groups for the first year; except Maths which they did set in about March.

But he actually had a fantastic year. Being taught in a form group made transition to secondary so much easier (you move from classroom to classroom as a group, so you don't get lost), and due to having subject specialists teaching the subjects they had the knowledge and ability to differentiate appropriately. From his descriptions of lessons most tasks were differentiated on three levels. (It must be a nightmare to teach there, but that's a different question!). In addition there were always extension tasks, and differentiated homework.

He is now in yr8 and in 'high aptitude' groups for all academic subjects and is making tremendous progress. I don't think not setting caused any problems at all.

Milliways Thu 01-Oct-09 21:54:30

DD's school did this, no sets except Maths (half way through Yr7) but most things set from Yr 8 when she was much happier.

I suppose it stops some kids feeling crushed by being in a lower set at the start of a new school?

DS is at a Grammar and again no sets until Yr8, and even in Yr10 doing GCSEs some subjects are not really set by ability - more by timetable! (But they are all supposed to just do well there)

roisin Fri 02-Oct-09 02:48:22

Another reason why schools don't set in yr7 is the disruption it causes.

If you set on the basis of KS2 SATs data, you soon discover how unreliable it is. We've had students on a 5b for English from SATs (which would put them in the top set), whose primary teachers actually gave them an assessed at a Level 3 (which would put them in one of the bottom sets)!

You also have timetable constraints. In my current school the yr7s do not all have English at the same time, so you can't easily swap students between sets mid-way through the year.

Also because of timetable restrictions departments have to work together, so you may end up having to 'agree' sets to some extent with another subject, which can be very problematic.

Even if you do have a timetable that allows this, it can cause massive disruption if you do all your own baseline testing in Sep/Oct, and then re-jig all the sets in November. At this point students are settling in to the new school, getting to know their teachers and fellow students, how their timetable works, where their classrooms are, etc. It's difficult if you then rearrange the class groups for a large number of students.

magentadreamer Fri 02-Oct-09 07:01:17

At DD's school they are only set in Maths and Science in yr7. Both these subjects did tests every half term which allowed for movement between the sets. This year they have started to stream in Yr8 - this was previously done for KS4. DD's year group has been split into 3 streams The top stream has more Science lessons a week and the other streams appear to have an additional Maths/English lesson. Within the streams they are set for Maths,English, Science and MFL. The top stream is geared to take triple Science at GCSE but some of the DC's in the middle stream will also get the chance to do triple Science as well. GCSE options are not streamed from what I can gather and due to the fact the school has vertical tutoring and a new policy of each option being done at the rate of one a year for yr9-11 they will have DC's from all of these year groups in them!

bruffin Fri 02-Oct-09 08:09:59

DC's school do their CATs in the July before they start so they are set from the beginning.

Madsometimes Fri 02-Oct-09 10:20:20

The school I want dd1 to go to does streaming. I'm not sure how happy I am about this, because she is better at literacy than maths. However, they get 80% A-C incl English and maths, so I assume the standard must be good in the middle sets as well as the high sets. As with bruffin, they set using information from both CATs and SATs.

Litchick Fri 02-Oct-09 11:35:37

I would have thought setting is very important.
DCs have been setted in English and Maths since year three. By year six they are setted in everything. It's very flexible, you can be in the A set for English and the D set for maths, with every other permutation for French, Science,Latin, History etc etc. And you can move if it obviously isn't working.

since I have DTs I can see how they learn essentially the smae stuff, just at doffering speeds. It works very well and I'd be unhappy about a secondary school not implementing the smae policy.

In fact I'm surprised, becasue on previous threads I've heard it said many times that state schools always set which is why mixed ability years don't matter.

Cortina Fri 02-Oct-09 16:02:22

I was put in the bottom set for English but was good at it. My teacher and I didn't see eye to eye in the year that the sets were decided.

I went on to win the English prize in the the sixth form and do extremely well. It didn't do me any harm and it gave me confidence to ace all the tests and exams. It didn't happen in Maths where I was in the bottom set for good reason .

I still wonder about why they put me in the bottom set?!

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