The Institute of Education reports that one in six children are being streamed by ability by the age of seven, with boys more likely to be placed in the bottom stream than girls.
The consequences of placing children into inflexible categories at such a young age could undermine any attempt to improve social mobility in this country. We are effectively setting kids on their little tracks, on their roads to success or failure, which can only be reversed by a fantastic combination of talent, hard work, tiger mums and dads and bloody good luck. And, like the planets aligning to produce a perfect eclipse, this is often too difficult to achieve.
My personal experience of those formative years was of Spain’s educational system, where children are not streamed according to ability sets. Yes, it did have a price to pay for it, as limited resources and challenging behaviours can make for an explosive mix.
But on the other hand, surely our classrooms should mimic the world we live on? If you work harder, you will achieve a better outcome, but we all live and work with people of different abilities and different backgrounds.
With research suggesting that streaming pupils does not raise standards and that children from poorer backgrounds tended to stay in the bottom set,we must start by teaching our young people a much-needed lesson: that ghettos of privilege don’t work.