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Teaching Methods

Volume 488: debated on Monday 2 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment his Department has made of the comparative effect on educational attainment of streaming classes by ability and using mixed-ability classes. (260158)

Analysis of research suggests that no single model of pupil grouping will be of benefit to all pupils all of the time. For example, there is some evidence that being taught in a mixed ability class can be beneficial for low attainers, but that ability-based classes can be beneficial for high attainers.

We promote setting—the grouping of pupils according to their ability in a particular subject—as an effective way of ensuring that individual pupils are receiving personalised help appropriate to where they are in their learning. Similarly, we promote effective pupil grouping practices, and guided work, as tools for delivering the most appropriate curriculum to each individual in mixed ability classes.

We do not promote streaming—where pupils are assigned to classes on the basis of an overall assessment of their general ability and pupils remain in their streamed classes across the majority of subjects—as it assumes that children will have the same level of ability in all subjects.

We published “Grouping Pupils for Success” in September 2006 which provides guidance on effective setting and grouping practices, and highlights their associated advantages and disadvantages. “Personalised Learning—A Practical Guide”, published in October 2008, also has chapters on both “High quality teaching and learning” and “Pupil Grouping”, which describe the repertoire of teaching strategies and techniques practitioners can use to address the varied needs of a mixed-ability class. Copies of both of these documents have been placed in the House Libraries.