Why can't we discuss setting?

21st March 2008 at 00:00
Do we really need international reports, such as the OECD's Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland, to remind dedicated teachers in schools in disadvantaged areas that "we should make closing the gap in educational attainment our major goal in the 21st century", as Brian Boyd has suggested (TESS, February 29)?

In relation to his criticisms of setting, the research literature indicates that the high leverage factors for increasing student performance are related to effective feedback on how and why the child understands, or misunderstands, specific and challenging goals. Teachers should pay constant attention to answering the pupil's need to know "how am I doing?"

We were also reminded of the significance of the social side to learning by the comments in your issue last week from Andrew McLellan, Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons, who noted that the prison population is almost universally "young, male, addicted and poor", and that many have no social skills. In fact, a British Council-led project on inclusion and diversity in education found that pupils who had recently moved to Scotland were most likely to be bullied because of their language and communication skills.

The way forward for the relationship between curriculum, pedagogy and the organisation of learning is currently up for grabs with A Curriculum for Excellence. So why should there not be further deep discussion among teachers and researchers in relation to setting in maths and other organisational practices presently operating in primary classrooms?

The new concordat between the Scottish Government and local authorities could enable teachers to develop and take ownership of issues such as setting if, as your leader suggested last week, A Curriculum for Excellence is supposed to be "a teacher-led initiative".

Julia Davidson, Research fellow, Faculty of Education, Glasgow University.

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