Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

What Keeps Me Awake at Night - from Top to Bottom, Sets Just Mean Stress: Opinion

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

What Keeps Me Awake at Night - from Top to Bottom, Sets Just Mean Stress: Opinion

Article excerpt

I wouldn't mind dividing pupils into sets if it were straightforward. Oh, to teach maths and use numbers to make the decision. A child has an average test score of 86. She should be in a higher set than a child with an average test score of 28, right? Right.

But I don't teach maths; I teach English. And it just ain't that easy. Every year I lie awake and sweat as I think of the enormity of the task ahead: putting Year 8s into groups where they will probably stay for their entire school careers.

Our small, rural secondary does not have 32 pupils who are brilliant enough to be labelled "top set" and whose talents clearly distinguish them from their peers in set 2. I can live with the decision to put the truly talented in the top set, but there are just four or five children at most in each year group whose brilliance no one could deny. Then there are a dozen more bright kids whose "safe" level 5s at the end of key stage 2 could not be disputed, which gives me half a class. …

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