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6 Year Olds In England, Denmark & Finland


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I know that 6 is a bit older than our Foundation Stage, but I've just read the booklet about this research that was sent into our school and it was really interesting, as the children in the other 2 countries don't start 'school' until 7, and they are treated at 6 much the same as our children are at 5.

 

I don't know if anyone else has read it, but one of the things that really interested me was that only in England is there a focus on ability grouping young children, and it's quite resisted in Finland & Denmark as damaging to the children's self esteem. The emphasis is more on co-operative learning and bringing all the children on together.

 

I wondered what other Reception class teachers on this site do? Do you ability group at all? If so, for what? And how often?

 

I'd like to do less in ability groups (currently I use those groups for much of our literacy/numeracy work) and would also like to hold off on groups until at least January next year. I can already see SMT having heart attacks....

 

Love Dianne xxx

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Quick answer here, have only skimmed the booklet.

 

Yes I use groups for classroom management mainly, avoids a stampede of little people but they are also very roughly ability/ skill characterised to enable me to most efficiently differentiate and crucially are flexible and frequently changed so that hopefully neither parents or children realise. Certainly avoid thinking top/ middle/ bottom as that is so decisve and doesn't allow children to develop. So also look at the social mix of the groups.

 

Susan

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This is a really interesting topic especially as we were only talking about this yesterday in a staff meeting. Unfortunately with the pressure of NLS and NNs for many people there is an expectation that you ability group. I agree with the research.

I think children soon 'know' which group they are in. My main problem has always been that children need role models as much from other children as from adults and if all the role models are in one group, then where does it leave the others? We tried ability grouping in reception and i got the less able group who had no language between them so I did all the talking. When we went back to social groupings, the less linguistic children moved on much more.

When I was maths coordinator for a primary school, we even did mixed ability all the way up to year 5 against the better judgment of a lot of people. but the end result was very favourable for the overall school. Possibly it didnt help the very able, so id have to say there's good and bad in every system, but we definately moved on as a school which I think was good for morale, self esteem and confidence, which in turn helped to improve behaviour.

 

I cant imagine being in the majority on this one though, so lets hear what everyone else has to say?

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Just to add, which I realise I didn't before-- I firmly believe we would be better off, on the whole, if formal education was started later.

 

I know the trauma that was experienced by my own 2 sons when they started school, in a rather formal setting in a school that was amongst the first to be awarded Beacon status too. They have never really recovered, either!

 

I think things like Reggio work because what is offered is appropriate. A lack of formality doesn't mean a lack of provision or opportunites/ experiences and I think that's what so many people misunderstand.

 

Susan

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Dianne, This topic is fascinating. I teach in Reception class but am KS1 coordinator also. I have real reservations about the setting of 5-7 year olds.

I personally do not have fixed groups as I consider young children do not have 'fixed' ability levels. I try to offer equality of access to the curriculum whilst making judgements about what is developmentally appropriate. Sometimes that means having differing expectations and accepting different outcomes from a group of children working together on a focused activity. It can be mind-bending but children learn so much from each other and can inspire each other in a way that adults can't.

There are many factors influencing how young children 'perform' at school. It seems a shame to me that children are often categorised as top/ middle/ bottom before their brains are fully grown, never mind before many of them have settled into school properly.

I feel that a lot of the problem has been created by lack of knowledge and understanding of the development of the child's identity as a learner and of the value of collaborative learning. If you are a KS1 teacher you have to be very secure in your teaching methods to go against the suggested groupings of classes for literacy and Numeracy in the National Strategies!

Someone with some clout needs to do some research into what is happening to children's self belief in KS1 Lit and Num hours. Good luck with your ideas, Pau

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Diane

i have found this topic really interesting. Im studying at college HND and have had several school placements. i have seen in reception class that the differenciation is greater than in year one or two. in foundation the teachers are planning much more for the individuals needs and a class can be split into five or six different groups.

i thought that this was good for the children in the class but as one of you said, children do learn quickly where their position in the class is. this is a confidence boost for some but a real esteem knock for others who may need the boost. i have noticed that KS1 seem to differenciat less. max three groups. this may be because of the NNS or the lower numbers of volunteers in KS1. you do need a lot of help when arranging different work fo so many different groups especially at such young ages.

 

One teacher i have worked with in year two had the class as a mixed ability tables and treated the class as a whole group. We had extra worksheets (i know theyre not great) for children who had finished the class sheet. all of the children benefited from this because the lower ability children were much more willing to work due to the peer presure of sitting next to someone who is already half way thruhg what they are supposed to be doing.

the teacher also promoted citizen ship in a big way and discussing and heping each other. the children talked purposefully about what the task set meant and how they could solve problems. this had a great impact and benefit on thier literacy. As yoy can see i was impressed.

 

sorry to much talk here but great subject.

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Thanks julie, + all others who replied. I'm doing a lot more work with mixed ability groups now, though haven't totally ditched ability groups - that will come next year I think to make the battle a little easier to win!

 

Dianne xxx

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