Union calls for debate over 'ability grouping' of young pupils

Many teachers say they are expected to use ability grouping

LABELLING pupils "low ability" as young as three-years-old could have a lasting negative impact, new research has found.

A National Education Union (NEU) study revealed teachers had concerns about the effect on children's confidence, self-esteem and aspirations.

The research considered the extent to which children were divided into ability groups for teaching from an early age abd the impact on staff and pupils, and why this happens.

The NEU includes members of the ATL union in Northern Ireland.

In the survey of teachers, 65 per cent said children were aware which group they were in, and 45 per cent said grouping damaged children's self-esteem.

Many teachers felt they were expected to use ability grouping and worried about the negative impact on pupils.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said the findings made for challenging reading.

"It's an absolute disgrace that the pressure on schools to ensure pupils pass tests means children as young as three consider themselves 'low ability' right at the start of their academic life, a belief which could impact on their self-esteem, carry on throughout their schooling and determine the direction of their adult lives," she said.

"High stakes accountability testing and chronic workload are significant factors for the decisions education staff make. We hope this research will open a discussion into the underlying drivers of early years grouping."

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