When looking at ability groups in the classroom it can be argued that many of the groups are nonsense. More often the composition of groups are chosen on the basis on ‘having an even number of children/gender in each group’ and/or the children’s different personalities. There is also a disproportionate number of ‘summer babies’ in lower groups – are the children more likely to be grouped on the basis of their maturity, concentration levels and whether they can work independently, rather than their real ability in Mathematics or English.
Self fulfilling prophecy
Since reading more about mindset I’m at a loss over how any teacher who believes in this can defend ability groups for young children. If we start from the premise that every child can improve and every child has the potential to do well why would we place them in groups and limit their achievements? Let alone, why would we place them in groups and give them the mindset from such a young age that they can’t do something or are ‘bad’ at a certain subject. If a child thinks they can’t do something (and so does the teacher by setting them lower work to start with) then they will fulfil your expectations.
Are we giving each child the same opportunities to learn?
For example, I’ve seen Year 2 teachers teaching ‘commas in lists’ to the rest of the class whilst the LA are working on capital letters and full stops. Some may argue that this is correct. I don’t. By not covering the Year 2 content with these children when you revisit it they start at a disadvantage and would have to make exceptional progress to catch up with their peers.
These children in LA set groups start KS2 already behind, not because of their inherent ability but because they haven’t had the same access to learning. How can we expect them to be working at the same level when they have not been taught the same content!
Young children need very fluid differentiation. I’d argue that groupings should never be set but instead the teacher should react to each child, during each lesson, supporting and extending where necessary. We must always give every child the opportunity to access the same content.
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