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Secondary Education: Teaching Methods

Volume 464: debated on Monday 15 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what his latest estimate is of the proportion of secondary school pupils in England who are taught in classes with (a) setting, (b) streaming and (c) no setting or streaming; and if he will make a statement. (150670)

This is a matter for Ofsted. HM Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, has written to the hon. Member and a copy of her reply has been placed in the Library.

Letter from Christine Gilbert, dated 25 July 2007:

Your recent parliamentary question has been passed to me, as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, for reply.

You asked for the latest estimate of the proportion of secondary school pupils in England who are taught in classes with (a) setting, (b) streaming, and (c) no setting or streaming.

Ofsted data on the use of streaming and setting are based on lessons observed during inspections. Since September 2005, under section 5 inspection arrangements, the recording of class organisation has been based either on discussions with the headteacher or teacher or by reference to the lesson plan at the time of observation. Whereas with section 10 arrangements all full-time teachers were observed by inspectors, under section 5 inspections this is not likely to be the case. Under section 5 inspections, a much smaller number of lessons is observed than would have been seen under the section 10 framework; and the lessons they see are not necessarily representative of the pupil grouping in the school as a whole. Retrieval from the lesson observation data would not therefore allow us to estimate what proportion of pupils nationally is taught in mixed ability or setted/streamed classes.

Lessons are recorded as being setted/streamed, mixed ability or otherwise organised. For clarity, setting is the term used to describe the organisation of pupils in classes on the basis of their prior attainment in the particular subject being taught. The term banding, which is very similar to streaming, is used when the decision as to which pupils are included or not in a class is based on the prior attainment in a range of subjects.

Although I am unable to answer the particular question you have raised, I have set out overleaf the data Ofsted has on the proportion of lessons observed in secondary schools during 2006/07 which were taught in setted/streamed and in mixed ability classes.

A copy of this reply has been sent to Jim Knight MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners, and will be placed in the library of both Houses.