Year 9 students from Fulham Cross Girls’ School and Henry Compton School came out of school today to meet for an impassioned debate, over whether secondary education is best organised by ability ‘setting’ or in mixed-ability groups.
Both schools put forward 25 students each and Hannah and Sophie have been working with each group on a short workshop programme, exploring different sides of the topic and helping students develop new skills in speaking publically, researching in teams and writing effective presentations.
Students from both teams stepped up to provide a brilliant heavy-weight debate, and worked hard to include some really impressive research to make both sides of the case. Reference was made to a wide range of different reports and studies, and students also conducted their own surveys and interviews around school to get to grips this issue and really bring the subject to life. Education Secretary Michael Gove was even contacted and asked about the government’s position, to be included in Henry Compton’s defence of ability setting.
Prizes went to students from both teams for outstanding performance and contribution to the project, and although there was very tough competition with strong speeches and work on both sides, it was congratulations to Henry Compton, who were judged as overall winners of the debate, based on persuasive argument, presentation skills, and research contribution.
We were really lucky to have teamed up with the Borough Youth Forum for this project. Not only did Brenda Whinnett (who leads the forum) kindly come and chair today’s big debate, but Forum members were also involved in helping design the project, come up with the motion topic and in volunteering as part of the support team at the debating event and the pre-debate workshops. Many thanks to all at BYF and we hope some of today’s students will be encouraged to find out more about what they do in the borough and get involved themselves.
Mrs Neoh from Henry Compton said “We all enjoyed the challenge and obviously are delighted with the result. As an educational exercise it really demonstrated how the pupils can surprise us and themselves when expectations are high and there are unknown elements”.
A student poll conducted at the start of the project and at the end of the debate final speeches revealed a swing of opinion through doing the project work. Numbers who agreed that ‘setting is better than mixed-ability for raising educational achievement in schools’ fell significantly from 69% to 51%, whilst those who disagreed almost doubled, from 21% to 41%.
A Fulham Cross student commented about the project, “I think it helped expand my knowledge and gave me a wider intake on the British schooling system. I LOVED the debate and I hope it happens again”.