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Academies: Teaching Methods

Volume 473: debated on Monday 17 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what proportion of academic lessons are set by ability. (173245)

Our current data—which are taken from Ofsted inspection reports—do not enable us to count or estimate how many lessons in England are set by ability.

Ofsted collects data on the use of streaming and setting in lessons observed during inspection. Before September 2005, inspectors were usually informed about how classes were organised by means of pre-inspection documentation, discussion with head teachers or teachers' schemes of work or lesson plans. Under the inspection arrangements at that time, all full-time teachers were observed by inspectors. Since September 2005, the recording of class organisation has been based either on discussions with the head teacher or teacher or by reference to the lesson plan at the time of observation. A much smaller number of lessons are observed than would have been seen under the previous inspection framework; therefore, lessons seen may not represent pupil grouping in the school as a whole.

Prior to 2003-04 lessons were 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.

From 2003-04 the distinction between streaming and setting was removed and instead data recorded on whether the class was mixed ability or setted/streamed.

The data here described for each year between 1996-97 and 2006-07 were included in the answer given in August 2007 to the hon. Gentleman’s parliamentary question number 153953. HMCI Christine Gilbert also wrote to him in February of this year to inform him that there was an error in the figures given for 2005-06 and 2006-07, and the correct figures for the two years were included in that letter.