Over the half term I’ve had a dilemma concerning the setting / streaming of our pupils in Years 9 and 10.
Our school 5A*-C’s topped 75% last year — with all indicators that it will exceed that this year (upwards of 85%). But, and here’s the whole school policy – English and Maths aren’t quite up there yet. As a consequence, whole school policy has been towards pulling both Maths and English upwards. All good stuff.
We teach 6/7 classes in Years 9 and 10 respectively. With KS5 lessons added to the timetable – it is impossible for any Core subject to teach all the year group at once. At the start of the year, the learners were randomly split into two equally mixed ability “halves” - so that we only taught half the cohort at once.
It worked – and in Science, as we teach mixed ability throughout, it really makes no difference.
When the focus came round to implementing a step change in English and Maths results, it was decided that the best way forward was to stream the years as opposed to the random allocation. The very TOP ability students (for English and Maths) where grouped with the very BOTTOM ability to make one stream (call this X) whilst the remainder of the learners where streamed into the other (call this Y). The rationalisation being that the X’s would have one class of perfect behaviour (top top set) and two disruptive groups (lowest ability). The Y’s would have 3 groups of set ability.
Now, in Science all this was “over our heads” as we don’t set – so we just planned to mixed ability teach each band X and Y. Or so you would think.
As I’ve blogged before on the effect of Vocational Courses on GCSE results, we teach almost exclusively the Btec vocational course. Success on this course is not automatically linked to academic ability – indeed, the jury is still out on whether or not the link is “inverse” – do higher ability learners under perform in vocational courses?”. So as a result of the streaming, we have the highest ability pupils streamed with the lowest ability (for English and Maths).
Science = mixed ability, so the initial idea was to continue down this route. And this is my current dilemma.
I have the most able students in the year group in a class with some of the least able (and hence most disenfranchised / disruptive). Some of the less able pupils have actually progress further on the Btec course than than the more able. Some of the most able have made the least progress.
So, I reset them – but how?
- If I reset them on progress / completion through the course, I will create a classes that are very mixed ability – Ok we can handle that — But (again linking back to a post on Student Choice, from surveying the students, the more able don’t want to be in a class with the most disruptive elements of the school.
- If I set them on ability, I will create a “top set” which contains high ability students that show less progress than those in the lowest sets
My dilemma — hand crafting a setting arrangement that takes both of these into account, whilst allowing all students to make the most progress.
See, I knew I was onto something with letting students choose their teacher.
- Do you stream?
- Which subject(s) control the streaming?
- Do you set within the streams?