By Liam Quinn
The education system in the UK is clearly not perfect. The evidence of this is abundantly clear, we have over 1m young people unemployed, many with no or little qualifications or real skills for the working world. So how do we change this?
One radical idea would be to overhaul how we place students in classes. Currently classes are essentially determined by what year you were born in. Anybody born between September 2002 to July 2003 are placed in a Year group. For some reason, it has only just dawned on me how bizarre this notion is. Here’s what Shadow Secretary for Education, Stephen Twigg said on the matter earlier this year:
“On a conceptual level, many schools are still organised like factories. The workers down tools when they hear the bell ring, and are strictly separated into production lines, focused on building the constituent parts of knowledge, maths, science etc. At the same time, students are rigidly separated. Taught in batches, not by ability or interest, but by their own date of manufacture.”
“Taught in batches” seems to ring very true. Why do we teach people based on their age? In what part of the working world are people separated by age, not ability?
It is high time that we change this structure and begin classing people by ability. In my own education I was moved into “Year 6” classes when I was in “Year 4” to help keep me interested, and it worked, so why doesn’t every school do it?
Classes based on ability would help everybody. More intelligent students could be placed in classes with students on their intellectual level and pushed further than they are now, without the distractions of students who either a) don’t want to be there b) don’t understand the topics, and therefore act as a distraction. This could really help our brightest students and stop their progress from being stunted which occurs far too often in our current system.
It also works towards helping students who are “less intelligent.” They are no longer in classes with students who find subjects easy, which can be demoralising for students (I’m sure everybody can understand that feeling, when you are struggling and the person next to you finds the task a breeze.) They would also be given more attention by teachers who can help them progress. “Less intelligent” students also suffer from distractions from other students, I admit that when I was in school I was a distraction for many, when I finished work I’d mess around, because I didn’t have anything else to do. We need to keep students of all abilities fully engaged with education.
The only drawback would be the social side of things, which is why I would suggest that this idea would be for secondary schools only. There should be no stigma in being in higher/lower classes, it is a harsh reality, that some students are brighter than others. That doesn’t mean they are better than other students. Not everybody can get an A*, but everybody should be able to aspire to achieve the best they can.
It would also be tailored for individual subjects, so just because a student is good at Maths, doesn’t mean they should be placed in higher classes in English.
We already have “sets” within Year groups, and I believe it is high time to open the education system up. Classes by ability, not age.