The current government and dear old Michael Wilshaw, despite no evidence that it is efficacious, have toyed with the idea of making it a legal obligation for schools to set from the age of 14. The Education Endowment Fund (EEF) and OECD’s PISA report show that stratification in the education system appears to show no benefit. While Professor Coe’s comments on the damaging effects of effusive praise were met with vigorous head nodding, his evidence showing setting was ineffective……tumbleweed.
The belief in setting is perception, pure and simple – a mindset which thinks children with various abilities should not be educated together. There is a fetishisation of cleverness in the current education system alongside a belief that mixed ability somehow lowers the standard of learning for bright children.
It’s usually our own kids who we think are getting bored and need pushing, but current reports about children’s mental health show I should be just as concerned about my daughters suffering from anxiety, self harming and eating disorders as I am with them being stretched and getting A*s to get into Oxford.
Now, I had the privilege of going to a Secondary Modern so nobody gave a monkeys whether I achieved – suited me fine to be honest, I was much more interested in snogging and smoking but I have friends who are far cleverer than me. Two tell me that now, their biggest concerns are how happy their own children are – they were both treated with reverence in school and university as they were so bright and the expectations they tell me were awful – one had a breakdown. The idea of this much pressure to achieve the First everyone said you should get was about as alien to me as bunking off school to meet Alan with his Capri in his drainpipe jeans would have been to them.
Alright, I could have been pushed harder – look at this picture of my tutor group in Year 7
compared to how we were by year 11.
But these women, these brilliantly clever and funny women should have been pushed less – they needed a night out with Alan and his Capri as much as I needed a school with higher expectations of me.
I hope I can protect my daughters from body image pressures but also from the almost maniacal pressure to be working at full capacity at all times in school. I don’t want them setted in all subjects but in mixed ability classes in a good, inclusive, comprehensive. I want more for my daughters than A*s.
School is not just about academic achievement – we need to recognise this, not just for the students like me but also for the clever ones.
Everyone needs an Alan and a Capri in their lives.
Some Mixed Ability versus setting research, blogs and bits and bobs
Sent from my iPad