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Backlash grows on setting

Two Labour councils have challenged the Scottish Office over its support for setting by ability in the upper primary and first two years of secondary, a policy strongly favoured by the Scottish Secretary.

Stirling has branded the recent Inspectorate guidelines as "prescriptive" and "anti-children" and East Ayrshire's education committee was yesterday (Thursday) ready to join the campaign to flout Scottish Office recommendations.

Stirling warns that selection in schools is a threat to good practice, undermines equality in the classroom, undervalues children and conflicts with council values.

Pat Kelly, chairman of the children's committee, said the council had no intention of implementing the recommendations of Achievement for All until every school is consulted. Mr Kelly said: "There is no evidence that dividing classes into sets of those who have done well in tests and exams and those who have not has any effect on pupil achievement."

The committee was told that attainment groups would have a negative impact on pupil motivation and self-esteem.

In East Ayrshire, the education committee was told consultations with teachers showed no support for setting. Officials advised councillors not to "offer guidance to staff in schools to make significant changes to arrangements". A move away from the present position would be "unwelcome", according to teachers.

The council warns that positive school ethos and high expectations could be jeopardised.

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