A traditionalist case against setting/for mixed ability grouping (at least in subjects which are cumulative as opposed to hierarchical)

Lee Donaghy

This paper, by Professor Becky Francis and her research team at the IOE, which described setting of pupils in English schools as being a form of ‘symbolic violence’ against those who find themselves in the bottom sets, has provoked much discussion on my edu-Twitter timeline. I like to think, despite inevitable cognitive biases, that I follow a good range of people across the great Prog-Trad divide and so get a relatively balanced picture of discussions and debates when they arise.

From what I have seen, views on the paper have conformed broadly to type: those who I would characterise as progressives leapt on the paper’s conclusions, using it as further evidence of the inequity of ability setting and arguing for the virtues of mixed ability teaching; those of a more traditionalist bent, broadly supportive of ability grouping across the curriculum, have questioned the use of the hyperbolic phrase ‘symbolic violence’…

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