To stream or not to stream

“Whilst there are limiting beliefs still active within you, they will limit your potential”


Jacqueline Mary Phillips


Dropping stream/set


I heard a conversation about a young person who decided to drop a ‘set’ for their English study at school as they felt the ‘set/stream’ they were in was too difficult and they were not making progress. This had a profound impact on this young pupil as they made tremendous progress since ‘dropping’ a set, and are now at the top of this particular class. I heard a similar story from a friend whose daughter did the same with her maths GCSE ‘set’; she received a B in the end and was ecstatic. The parents of both children credited the class teachers’ efforts and the ability of the teachers’ to ensure these pupils made progress and received the successes they deserved.


This reminded me of a news item I read ‘Streaming at five set me up to fail, says deputy head’ 'Sean was put on "the oblong table" for low-ability pupils when he was still in reception. No-one told Sean and his friend Billy what being "an oblong" meant - but they knew. He believes the oblong-table pupils were set up to fail from the outset.”


Closer to home


Both sides of the arguments happened in our household as our two children, though they were in top sets, affected them completely differently. One strived to do well and kept the work up, the other nearly buckled under the expectations placed upon them from the school. They were told such comments as ‘… you just have to work hard’ ‘we are expecting you to put in much better efforts.’ etc... I did not really take this in until the second child nearly gave up their A’ level subject.


I did the SEJ process on my own expectations and beliefs I had placed upon them, but also did the SEJ with them.  What was so striking for me during this period of their school life was the amount of limitations/expectations we as adults place upon these young people.


Where I come from, we do not have ‘sets/stream’ but the pupils are all taught in one class by one teacher and they all do the same work. When I came to this country, I was surprised by this ‘separation’ and was curious how the children felt about being placed in ‘sets/streams’ and whether they knew what that meant. Clearly some children thrive and some don’t. 


So, what is our responsibility?


What is clear to me is the responsibility we as adults have since we have the power of the influence on these impressionable people. The beliefs and expectations we have of them have a huge impact and I am sure that the teachers of these successful children did not have any preconceived ideas about their abilities. I do not know if they knew of the SEJ process, but the process will show you clearly that all children are limitless and successful just as these teachers did. Surely that is the whole point of being an educator isn’t it?


Dr M Howard-Kishi

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