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New research on setting and streaming in the early years

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Thursday, 30 November, 2017

The National Education Union has today published research by Guy Roberts-Holmes and Alice Bradbury which finds that setting, streaming and other forms of "ability" group is widespread in Reception and even Nursery classes, despite teachers' reservations about its impact. 

Beatrice Merrick, Chief Executive of Early Education commented on the report:

This is a very welcome and thought provoking contribution to the debates about early years pedagogy.  Many, including parents, will be shocked by the pervasiveness of setting, streaming and other "ability" based interventions with children aged 3 and 4, and even more so given the evidence that shows this harms far more children than it helps.

Such processes are out of step with what we know works to support the learning of young children, anchored in building their confidence and skills as learners, in the context of a broad and rich curriculum. It is worrying that so many teachers feel pressured into such steps against their better judgement; we hope this will lead to dialogue in all schools about how best to ensure all children achieve their potential without fear of early labelling or artificial constraints on their learning.

Notes to editors: 

Early Education (The British Association for Early Childhood Education) is the leading independent national charity for early years practitioners and parents, campaigning for the right of all children to education of the highest quality. Founded in 1923, it has members in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and provides a national voice on matters that relate to effective early childhood education and care of young children from birth to eight. The organisation supports the professional development of practitioners through publications, training, conferences, seminars and access to a national and regional branch network. For more information on the work of Early Education visit