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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:49 am 
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mystery wrote:
The "tiers" start at age 5 in some schools - pretty fixed groups of below average, average and above average ability children as judged in some way by the school. The work is differentiated so it affects what your child is taught. Sometimes children are in the wrong groups ------- as could happen with any system whatever it is ------- so some children end up with unnecessary gaps.

Is it possible to have the perfect system?
Well, it is possible to do a lot better than we do, yes. Setting children of five by 'ability' is something which no forward-thinking country would even consider. That we do it here is nothing short of terrible, but sadly, it is what a lot of parents seem to want.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 8:56 pm 
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But when you have in the same year 1 class a child like my ds, who struggles to count to 20, while others are confident with adding up teen numbers and grasping multiplication facts, what other option is there than to split them into groups and give them different work?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:54 pm 
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Multiplication facts in Year 1? :shock: Your son sounds about right to me.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:12 am 
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Bemily wrote:
But when you have in the same year 1 class a child like my ds, who struggles to count to 20, while others are confident with adding up teen numbers and grasping multiplication facts, what other option is there than to split them into groups and give them different work?

I could answer this but it would take a lot of space and risk turning this thread into another 'Amber holds forth about her pet subjects' rant. So in short, I will turn it on its head and say that no other country does this; in Denmark it is actually illegal to set by ability at any point during compulsory schooling; that if children start school at an appropriate age (ie, older than 4) and have had an appropriate pre school experience (not learning letters and numbers); and if, most crucially I suppose, you have a cooperative rather than a competitive ethos to your education, with teachers trained in and convinced of the merits of mixed ability teaching, this kind of issue doesn't actually arise.

KS10...agree, of course. These little multipliers will lose their advantage pretty soon, and Bemily, who is to say your son won't outperform them as he has taken longer to consolidate what is going on? He is still a tiny child, far too young to be filling his head with such nonsense! :D :D


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 11:41 am 
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Just found this on, of all places, the DfE's own website: http://tinyurl.com/setting-in-schools
Quote:
Setting by ability is very common in UK schools. Two digests that look at its effects in mathematics are Effective classroom organisation in primary schools and, in secondary schools, Students' experiences of ability grouping .

Effective classroom organisation in primary schools concludes that there is no evidence that lower Key Stage 2 pupils learn more effectively in sets for mathematics at any level. In fact, the study tentatively suggests that children of all levels of attainment do better when taught in mixed ability classes. The author also recommends mixed ability teaching because of its social and equitable benefits, and suggests that setting is usually adopted in order to make the teacher’s job of whole class teaching more manageable.

In secondary schools, Students' experiences of ability grouping similarly suggests that setting in mathematics has a negative effect on both attainment and motivation, with the exception of slightly improved attainment for top set pupils. The authors conclude that setting promotes a more inflexible style of teaching than mixed ability classes, and creates unreasonably low or high expectations for the pupils in the lower and top sets


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:02 am 
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So what would be best practice for differentiating the work in a mixed ability class, if not grouping by ability? Genuinely interested!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:09 am 
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There are lots of ways, Bemily! :) You can differentiate by task and outcome eg you ask the children to write a story on their holiday, perhaps asking some to use connectives, others adding adjectives, others similes etc. Or you could set a cloze exercise and put the missing words at the bottom for some children, but not for others. Or you could ask them to write a list of instructions from scratch, whereas for others you may provide the instructions but muddled up and they have to order them.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:43 am 
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Thanks that is really interesting. How about maths?


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:48 am 
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Amber wrote:
Just found this on, of all places, the DfE's own website: http://tinyurl.com/setting-in-schools
Quote:
In secondary schools, Students' experiences of ability grouping similarly suggests that setting in mathematics has a negative effect on both attainment and motivation, with the exception of slightly improved attainment for top set pupils. The authors conclude that setting promotes a more inflexible style of teaching than mixed ability classes, and creates unreasonably low or high expectations for the pupils in the lower and top sets


This relies on an updated and edited version of (Boaler, 2000) on the DfE website, which in turn uses (Wiliams, 2004). For some reason the DfE website includes an updated version of the former which has had all the references removed and the bibliography shorn, so although it refers to the latter it took a bit of messing about to locate it.

(Wiliams, 2004) is a very interesting read. One of its conclusions:

Quote:
Of course, as we know
from studies of school choice (see, for example, Gewirtz, et al., 1995), setting is
valued by middle-class parents who presumably assume that their children will be in
the top sets, but given the disadvantages that setting produces for those who are not
placed in the higher sets, we should question whether the parents of higher-attaining
children should be allowed to secure advantages for their (already advantaged)
children in this way.


almost summarises the comprehensive/grammar debate in a sentence. Selection, whether by school or set, largely advantages the already advantaged who would do well anyway, while disadvantaging the already disadvantaged who now do worse. But how, politically, do you sell that to the advantaged? Why should the advantaged care? Why would they as they see it "sacrifice" their children for the interests of others? And what does "allowed" mean in an environment in which the advantaged have wider school choices available to them, including those outside the state system? Answer those questions and everyone will end up a lot happier.

Jo Boaler, 
Dylan William and Margaret Brown (2000): Students’ experiences of ability grouping – disaffection, polarisation and the construction of failure (Updated), originally in 
British Educational Research Journal,26:5, 631-648, edited and updated version at http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/fi ... boaler.doc

Dylan Wiliam & Hannah Bartholomew (2004): It’s not which school but which set you’re in that matters: the influence of ability grouping practices on student progress in mathematics, British Educational Research Journal, 30:2, 279-293


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:52 am 
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How to do it in maths? OK, well first of all with your son, if it were me I'd be making no assumptions at this age other than maybe he needs more practice than others in learning to count to 20, and making sure that he gets this practice both at school and at home - same for other very specific areas of maths where he seems to be behind his age group. Also you'd have to work out what your son does find diffult about "counting to 20" .... what does it mean? And then move on from what he can do and work in small steps on the next steps in a fun way but that involves lots of overlearning.

Then, when planning lessons for the whole class, yes you would need some easier and "harder" tasks, but you don't have to assume that every lesson on every maths topic will be delivered "like this to the below average group", "like this to the average group" and "like this to the above average group". You could have some more open ended work which each child could complete to the best of their skills and knowledge at the time and which would give everyone a "stretch", and some more "closed tasks" of increasing difficulty and some children would get further than others on them? Just a thought. But I've never taught maths to this age group. Frankly I would find it a complete nightmare and none of them would ever learn a thing whatever group they were in. :oops:

The trouble is that with the fixed groups based on "ability" at this young age is that, even if the groupings are kind of right in some respects, they cannot be right for each and every maths topic. However you fix your groups you are going to get somehting wrong. e.g. You are going to get children in the top group who can't tell the time for toffee, for example, and children in the bottom group who are great on drawing in lines of symmetry on 2d shapes, or doing reflections, or solving a problem with equipment etc.

I really don't see how at this age where every child will have very different maths skills how a "one size fits all" approach within three fixed groups can help any more than going mixed ability and allowing for the fact that in any one lesson you will have children at a wide range of stages in the topic you are trying to teach.

You are not going to change the school though. On a personal note I'd find some maths materials (both practical and theoretical) that your son enjoys and do them at home. I know Amber would say I was wrong, and to leave alone, and wait for the child to be "developmentally ready" but I'd be concerned if my child was in a "fixed group" school and he could not count to 20 by the end of year 1. Unless there was some severe learning difficulty I'd be assuming that he was quite capable and just not making the progress he could in a group situation and that some well thought out one to one at home would do the power of good.

Of course I could be completely wrong and the school might doing their utmost for you and your son and I have put my foot in it. Sorry if that's the case!!


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