First base

11th September 1998 at 01:00
Baseline testing is intended to help primary teachers assess their newest recruits, and to aid the number-crunchers in their efforts to work out how far schools are "adding value" to their pupils.

But - somewhat unexpectedly - the new policy has resulted in a furore over setting and streaming. Who could have predicted that the newspapers of Middle England - normally universally condemnatory of mixed-ability teaching - would have reacted as vehemently as any progressive teacher against the possible labelling of small children?

Added to this, there seems to be widespread confusion as to the difference between "streaming" and "setting". In fact, streaming in its pure form (in terms of A, B and C streams) is fast dying out. The demise of the 11-plus has made it unnecessary in the primary school; and the dreaded "non-exam stream" in secondary schools is also a thing of the past. Allocating children to different sets for individual subjects, on the other hand, is widespread and becoming more so - especially at secondary level. Even in infant classes, small groups based on attainment in reading are common. But don't tell the Daily Express.

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