Setting is a risky game: your move

Research warns us that setting widens the gap between rich and poor – with little overall impact on attainment – and that it can have a long-term negative effect on confidence. A new study also suggests that children are frequently put into the wrong sets. But, perhaps because of parental pressure, the practice remains deeply ingrained in English education. Would schools ever be willing to try an alternative system, asks Martin George

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Teachers are back in the staffroom; children are back in the classroom. A new year has begun.

Everyone will be full of good intentions to do their best by all their pupils; to ensure that no child loses out because of their background; to make sure that everyone has equal access to the best teaching. But what if huge numbers of children are already destined to be educationally disadvantaged before they have even finished their first week?

That is the worrying conclusion of the academics behind a landmark study of setting and streaming in secondary schools in England. Among the startling ...

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