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Mixed Ability Classes

Volume 976: debated on Tuesday 18 December 1979

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5.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the organisation of the first and second years of secondary school in England and Wales with special reference to mixed ability classes.

The internal organisation of schools is a matter for individual schools and local education authorities. The 1976 discussion paper on mixed ability work in comprehensive schools issued by Her Majesty's Inspectorate indicated that about 12 per cent. of comprehensive schools adopted mixed ability organisation in most subjects in both first and second years.

Does my hon. Friend realise that I welcome the fact that on that calculation 88 per cent. of schools have not fallen for this so-called educational reform of mixed ability classes? Does he realise that, especially for the less able, this form of organisation is very bad, because it means that the hard-won gains of the primary schools in literacy and numeracy are lost as the children have to cope with academic subjects that are beyond their ability?

The discussion paper on mixed ability work from Her Majesty's Inspectorate indicated that concern about standards of work with mixed ability classes applied to pupils of all abilities. To quote from that document:

"more frequently it related to the extremes of the ability range and most frequently it related to the most able pupils".

Is the Minister aware that some education authorities, such as Kirklees, are still attempting to get mixed ability teaching within schools by introducing comprehensive schools? Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that before him at present for decision is an application to change the schools in my constituency to a comprehensive basis? Can he give an assurance that he will be prepared to meet myself and representatives of the local authority early in the new year to consider steps for an early implementation of that programme?

If Kirklees has submitted a request for a change of organisation of its schools, and if it has been received by the Department, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's request to meet the Department will be treated relatively favourably.