Stories + Views
How far down the egalitarian path should comprehensive schools go?
Having heard some of the debate on the recent Policy Exchange about grammar schools (although the acoustics weren’t great) I felt Fiona could have done with someone more on her wavelength in her corner.
Believers in the comprehensive school system oppose private and grammar schools, not least for their use of selective exams which determine their intake creating a social apartheid, yet do we not give our opponents an advantage if we argue for mixed ability classes in comprehensive schools?
I’m a great believer in discipline, team sports, school uniform and setting according to ability in most subjects apart from Humanities where I don’t think the ability level of pupils matters so much when teaching or absorbing the subject.
I believe that kids outcomes are maximised if they are taught with other pupils of a similar level. It must be frustrating for the progress of a quick learner to be slowed because his/her peer can’t take in the information and must make it more difficult for the teacher to do his/her job effectively. Furthermore I’m not sure this situation is in the interests of the slow learner who could be left behind. Is it more difficult for the teacher to know where to pitch his/her topic if the class has a broad spectrum of abilities?
I know the evidence from some countries points to the benefits of mixed ability teaching, but as a culturally different nation I’m not clear whether that system is best for us. I think the argument that a potential troublemaker who’s not interested, hindering the advancement of others is not without foundation, and if he/she is taught with like-minded people in the bottom set with a teacher that can meet those needs, would it not be advantageous to everyone involved?