Activity 1

Pupil Grouping

Before the 1967 Plowden Report, most classes in primary and secondary schools in England and Wales were streamed. Streaming involved the grouping of pupils into classes according to their academic ability. The membership of a streamed class remains the same for all subjects.

One of the recommendations of the 1967 Plowden Report was that primary pupils should be de-streamed. This practice spread into many secondary schools during the 1970s.

During the period between 1967 and the 1988 Education Reform Act, a large number of schools in England and Wales organised pupils in mixed ability groups. Teachers aimed to set work at a variety of academic levels within the same class.

Since 1988, mixed ability grouping has been less evident and there has been a return in both primary and secondary education to grouping by ability. Setting and banding have become more common.

Setting allocates pupils to ‘sets' according to their ability in particular subjects. A pupil might be in the top set for English but a middle or low set for Maths. Setting recognises that pupils can have different levels of attainment across different subjects.

Banding organises pupils in broad groups for all subjects. A school might organise a year group into upper and lower bands. Pupils might be in different sets within their band but would not be able to experience any lessons outside their band.

REFLECT: How are pupils grouped in your own school? What, in your opinion, are the strengths and weaknesses of your own school's approach to pupil grouping?

READ: Browse through this GTCE report by Ireson and Hallam (2004) at:

which deals with the impact of different types of pupil grouping on the quality of teaching and learning in English schools. Pay particular attention to discussion of streaming, banding, setting and mixed ability grouping. (You will need a username first.)

WRITE: Create a comparison chart along the following lines. You should aim for at least four or five bullet points in each space.

(Allow 30 minutes)