Schoolzone blog: Streaming debate rages on

Streaming debate rages on


29 Sept 2014


The new education secretary (she's called Nicky Morgan, by the way) apparently made and then retracted her first policy announcement earlier this month, when she said/didn't say that streaming or setting should be compulsory in schools. Teachers, departments and senior leaders have discussions about this every day somewhere in the country. There are probably almost as many models in use as there are schools.

BERA joined the fray at their annual conference last week, by announcing research from the IOE that indicates that the practice of “streaming” children by ability in the early years of primary school is widening the achievement gap between children from better-off homes and those facing disadvantage.

Top streams good; other streams bad

Researchers found that a child being placed in a top stream enjoyed a significant positive benefit, in terms of reading, maths and overall results by the end of year two, compared to children who had not been streamed. But pupils placed in middle or bottom streams fared significantly worse in their reading and overall results than those who were not streamed, while those placed in the bottom sets also fared significantly worse than their non-streamed peers in maths.

The social gap-widening aspects arises because more children from poorer backgrounds tend to be in the lower streams.

Negating Pupil Premium?

Last week we reported Oxford university findings that suggested that PP funding was not having the desired effect. This new IOE research might help to explain why. PP is meant to direct extra support to disadvantaged children, but if placing them in groups with other low attaining students is holding them back, whatever the PP is being spent on, it isn't supporting these children enough.

Should we scrap streaming?

Regardless of these findings - which relate to early years, remember - teachers will not generally want to move away from streaming if they currently use it because streaming helps classroom management. Rather than scrapping it, teachers need to look again at what they are doing for middle to low performing children and to check that these students are benefitting as much as the higher perfomers from this strategy.

If you're familiar with the grammar vs comprehensive argument, this one is along the same lines, but within schools.




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