Multiple studies into streaming have shown that streaming only really benefits pupils in the top groups. But should not all pupils get the same level of education and not get stuck in the lower echelons with less demanding teachers who typically, have lower expectations of them? A continued research project into streaming and teachers’ expectations conducted between 2008 and 2018 demonstrates that “when teachers set high expectations, their students follow suit. Students can also follow suit when teachers set low expectations.” This is not hard to believe as we all know how difficult, if not impossible, it is to change someone’s opinion of us, even more so if this person is a teacher. However, a school worth its weight should actually allocate the best teacher to the bottom set. This is a certainly a question for parents to ask their (prospective) school.
Not being part of the top 20% elite group in any school is even more acute in fee-paying schools - where those in the bottom academic groups, although they pay the exact same tuition fees, perhaps are unable to benefit from the overall academic excellence of their school. Problems for example arise in VERY academically selective schools where the school wants or can only present their very top tier to Oxbridge and/or US Ivy League colleges, taking the possibility to apply to top universities away from other, perfectly able, pupils in the lower sets.
Prospective parents are therefore advised to carefully consider their child’s ability and personality when selecting a school, as one would ideally want – as least in schools where academic streaming is applied – to make it into the top of the cohort, because you will get much more bang for your buck. At times therefore a smaller, less academically competitive school could result in a much better educational outcome: rather than being a small fish in big pond, and have a below par experience, your child could be a big fish in a small pond. And the latter is quite a happy place to be. Expectations, expectations….
Alvidrez & Weinstein, 1999; Weinstein, 2002, 2008