How are students assessed in schools?

Parents often question schools and teachers how their children are being assessed and the progress they are making in their lessons, and it is common practice in many schools in England and Wales for classes to divide the students into groups based on their level of ability. This generally consists of an advanced group for those students that quickly understand and easily complete tasks, an middle group for those that find they can understand and learn with some time and guidance, and the final group being for students that need extra time and explaining to fully understand. But what is actually the benefit of using this in the classrooms?

By dividing the class up, immediately the environment in the room changes as students will become aware of the fact there are ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ groups. Regardless of whether these groups are labeled with fun names that have no link to ability, it is easy to see that students will view these groups along the lines of, “clever” and “stupid”. This is not the kind of attitude and thinking we want students to have. It will damage the confidence of those students that may well be in need of extra help, when teachers and schools should treat all students equally and determine which individuals will benefit from extra explanation and which can be left to get on with the tasks set for the lesson.


Another serious problem with assessing students into levels of ability is the way in which through assessing so many students quickly at the start of a new term some students are placed into the wrong group. They can then suffer from being held back if they are placed in a lower ability group than what they are actually capable of and are prevented from achieving their best. On the other hand students that are placed in a higher ability group than they feel comfortable in, can easily become confused and that can then lead to them become disillusioned by the subject, and affect their choices in education in the future.


How can you ever get an accurate result from an assessment for ability, when students are constantly learning and their capabilities and attitudes are constantly changing? There are also always going to be students that are borderline between groups, so where do you place them? In a higher group where they may struggle or in a lower group where they might not be challenged enough? This method of assessing students has so many disadvantages when the solution to it seems so simple!


Every student should be seen as an individual and be individually considered by teachers as to their ability and capability in lessons. Some students will inevitably need more time and help than others, and it needs to be up to teachers to realise who these students are, and when setting tasks for the class, spend a little extra time with those that may need it while the others are happy to get on with the work they have been given. This way, students have the chance to advance and improve at their own speed without being labeled into a group which can be limiting as students to believe they are being told how clever they are, and therefore why do they need to try and improve?

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