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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:43 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:59 am
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'How does it feel to be in the bottom group?'

Food for thought on this particular forum. The research has not been carried out yet but I think it is likely to yield interesting results.


https://ioelondonblog.wordpress.com/201 ... estigates/

(I never ability grouped my primary pupils for anything, ever, and also had very happy , cooperative and high achieving classes across the board in schools with a very mixed or even socio-economically deprived intake. I am not sure nowadays I would be allowed such freedom, sadly).


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:19 am 
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Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 1:05 pm
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Location: Reading
Interesting.

On a personal note, my DD was in the ‘bottom set’ for maths in year 1 and beginning of year 2. I hadn’t been told, until her year 2 teacher said at parents evening, but DD knew.
She was there based on a very early verbal assessment of her ability, the teacher asked her questions. She didn’t answer. However she was (and still is) very shy. So the teacher thought she couldn’t answer rather than she didn’t want to. She just though got she wasn’t good at maths. :(

After constructive discussions with her year 2 teacher, she was reassessed and moved up a set, then moved again. She left primary with a ‘level 6’ in maths.

She is in the top maths set at GS and about to take GCSEs. It’s taken years for her to shake the effect of being in the bottom set on her confidence in maths. What would have happened if she didn’t have a parent who was prepared to question (nicely) what was going on? Or if she didn’t have a teacher who was prepared to listen to a concerned parent?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:26 am 
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Very interesting. Setting is very common in maths but we stopped having a bottom set some years back precisely for the reasons that students thought they were 'rubbish'. We moved to parallel sets and results improved ...

Some Primaries I know of have flexible grouping according to the topic in maths - it seems to work well and children are moved around every fortnight or so.


Last edited by Guest55 on Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 2:00 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:56 pm
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Yes, interesting research. It will make fascinating reading one day.

Similar experience here to Tinkers -but a much harder journey to be believed. And it happened with two children and not just in maths. Some long lasting impact on both children but in different ways.

Of course, ours are the lucky ones. They should never have been in the the "bottom group" and they had parents that did something about it. The damage is far worse for all the others - whether "correctly" or "incorrectly" placed in the bottom group.

I taught at a comp that remained all ability in all subjects, until the end of year 9. It was hard work but I think the results at GCSE and A level were pretty good. I don't really know though how the results compared with how doing it differently might have worked out nor whether the pupils with the lower GCSE grades felt more confident than ones at other schools who had suffered a lifetime of "bottom" group.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 2:01 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:56 pm
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Guest55 wrote:
Very interesting. Setting is very common in maths but we stopped having a bootom set some years back precisely for the reasons that students thought they were 'rubbish'. We moved to parallel sets and results improved ...

Some Primaries I know of have flexible grouping according to the topic in maths - it seems to work well and children are moved around every fortnight or so.


How does setting without a bottom one work G55?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 3:24 pm 
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I agree that its not good to label and pigeon-hole children as "bottom set".

But from a practical point of view doesn't it make it difficult to teach a mixed group with a very wide ability range, particularly in a subject like maths?

If a class has some children who are competent at fractions, sequences and algebra and others who are still struggling with basic arithmetic what level is the teacher supposed to teach?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:38 pm 
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Thanks Amber. I'm not convinced that they need to challenge that ‘ability’ is a fixed, quantifiable and innate property of the child. Do any serious educationalists still think that way?

Definitely interested in the challenge to teaching pupils in groups defined by this ‘ability’ is beneficial for their learning and personal/social flourishing. Given this is looking at primary schools specifically, are they challenging differentiated teaching across the mixed ability class or the practice of setting in some primary schools?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 9:14 pm 
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This is such an interesting topic. I understand that setting from an early age is particularly prevalent in the UK compared with many other countries.

My DS was in the below average group in KS1 in maths mainly, I think, because I came from a family /cultural background where socialisation was important and so I - mistakenly probably given the system - did no extra work with him before school in terms of reading, maths etc. He never seemed to be overly bothered in the younger years which group he was in but when it did make him upset was when they got to Y2 and I was surprised at where he was but it all made sense as the other children had all had a lot of 'priming' before YR which meant that the school had to keep them on their path. Well, once I got insight into the parameters, he jumped from a 2a in Y2 to a 4c end of Y3 (in 'old money') for maths and he was one of the top 2% in the Kent test in terms of maths. Again he was a very quiet boy so got lost. I can see how some higher socio-economic groups (and I'm generalising here) would be able to get their DC to a high level at reception start which basically means the schools want to try to keep them on the path to achieve enough progress KS1 to KS2.

If you are in the bottom or top group it's quite obvious that there will be a self-fulfilling prophecy effect but unfortunately how they set in the early years can be very inaccurate and teachers are often very reluctant to move (especially in small schools with a 'vocal' parent group).

You should read Jo Boaler's 'The Elephant in the Class Room'. Also, of course, a huge birth of month order effect which does not really level out until it's too late for many (read: 'In-school Ability Grouping and the Birth of Month Effect' (Millennium Cohort Study).

Good luck and look forward to reading the results!


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:31 am 
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Turnip, that is so similar to my experiences for a very quiet at school, capable child. Glad you sorted it "easily".

Redpanda - yes, it does need challenging. Clearly, it varies from school to school and child to child but my recent experience of this in state primary school was hideous in this respect from Day 1 of reception - and I really don't think our school was unique.

For a parent who has the confidence, time and energy to ignore the school's boxed in judgements about your child and make up for the gap that is created through the differentiated teaching which results from the early judgement, then all is "just about" fine but it still leaves its legacy in several different ways.

But for the others it's sad as they end up with both a feeling of inferiority and a lesser education than they otherwise might have had. Many (all now?) GCSEs are split into two tiers. If you're in a group preparing for Foundation tier you are not going to be able to get higher than a certain grade no matter how hard you try. Many secondaries set children in year 7 according to their KS2 test marks etc and teach the group accordingly. So it's really hard to shake off past judgements which soon become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Giving out teacher assessed NC levels for pieces of work in primary school was horrible too. I'd often hear kids boasting about level X they got in a piece of work that day -- how terrible would another child feel who only got level X - 3.

Surely it's possible to mark work at the tender age of primary children and still teach each of them how to improve without having to give out levels which sound so official and important to children that the gobby ones go round boasting and the others feel terrible and, worse still, some resort to lying about what they got?

To some extent, the new national curriculum without levels has improved some of this and in some primary schools there is a lot more effort to teach almost everyone the same stuff and create fewer gaps between the top group and the bottom group. But the new national curriculum is so open to interpretation that it it still can be used to create the rigid "below", OK and "superior" type groupings that are so horrible both educationally and emotionally.


Last edited by mystery on Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:48 am 
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Interesting. My children being in a tiny primary there was quite a lot of flexibility about tables and no formal "setting". The caveat of that is that it was so small they were all very aware of each other's abilities anyway.
Now in secondary they are set for maths and languages.
At GCSE there is a top set and then several "middle sets" and there is a bottom set which is inevitable I think in a partially selective environment. However I was pleased recently to learn that the head has chosen to teach that set specifically to make them feel valued and just as important as anyone else.

At secondary though I think it can be hard to teach mixed ability. I know my DH thinks there are advantages and disadvantages but it's hard when he has a couple of non verbal children in a class who have come to secondary at (in old terms) less than a level 3 (sometimes still 1) and others who are brilliant and have A* potential...


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