Chalk Talk: How I found out that life in the fast set was not for me

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The Independent Online

Last week's report from London University's Institute of Education, showing that streaming was starting to make a comeback in state primary schools, sent a frisson of horror down my spine.

I have to confess that I was myself a victim of streaming so maybe I have a personal axe to grind on the subject.

I was good at English and maths and therefore put in the top stream at my school before we even started to tackle the sciences.

I was hopeless at them – even to the extent of being forbidden to take my O-level in physics because I had done so badly in my mocks.

Plainly, what I really needed was the sympathetic ear of a teacher who could lend a helping hand to the scientifically illiterate so that I could at least get some grasp of the subject.

It was not to be. Streaming was presumably in existence at my schools because setting – whereby I could have been in a different set for different subjects depending upon my ability in each one of them – would have been too complicated for those who drew up the timetable to administer.

Whatever the reason, I was being taught by a science teacher who thought he had the crème de la crème in his classroom, and did not have the skills to cope with someone like me.

I have to confess I am not sure that mixed-ability classes at my school would have helped, either. It would have taken an extraordinarily dedicated teacher to make sure I kept up in class.

Maybe it is the administrative load associated with setting – a system advocated by both the previous government and the current one – that has seen the return of streaming in so many primary-school classrooms.

Whatever it is, I hope it will cease before it sentences a new generation of children to the agony of having to sit in a class where they do not understand what is going on – and where no-one takes the time to try and tell them.

A suggestion for our politicians to consider regarding their controversial tuition-fees policy came out of a seminar organised by Universities UK, the body that represents vice-chancellors, last week. Why not call it a graduate tax, as it is graduates who will have to repay the loans? The answer, apparently, is because it applies to overseas students and you cannot force them to pay taxes. Can you force them to repay loans, I wonder?