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Setting or mixed ability?: pupils’ views of the organisational arrangement in their school


Address for correspondence Margaret Sutherland, Department of Educational Studies, St Andrew's Building, 11 Eldon Street, Glasgow G3 6NH, Scotland, UK. Email:


In 1996 Her Majesty's Inspectors of schools published a report entitled Achievement for All (SOEID, 1996). This report identified a number of key principles governing the organisation of pupils by class, or within class, in Scottish schools and concluded that:

The application of these principles does not give rise to one, universally best method of organising pupils into classes. If used effectively, both mixed ability and setting may be appropriate forms of organisation (5.4).

A study was undertaken to investigate the perceptions of various groups (teachers, parents and pupils) of how well the arrangements in place were working. A total of 13 schools were included in the investigation (4 primary and 9 secondary). Groups of between 6 and 12 pupils were interviewed in each school. This paper will present the perceptions of these pupils on the setting arrangements in place in their schools.