Nicola Woolcock reported from the Times on new Sutton Trust research on teaching practices.

Teaching children in ability sets can be harmful to their education, experts warn in a report today. They also claim that excessively praising pupils can do more harm than good.

Grouping children by academic ability into sets is criticised in the report, which examined 200 pieces of research into the best teaching practice.

Academics from Durham University write: “Evidence on the effects of grouping by ability, either by allocating students to different classes, or to within-class groups, suggests that it makes very little difference to learning outcomes.”

They add: “It can result in teachers failing to accommodate different needs within an ability group and over-playing differences between groups, going too fast with the high-ability groups and too slow with the low.”

The report, published by the Sutton Trust, a charity that tackles educational inequality, also says that too many teachers used excessive praise, which can become meaningless over time.

“For low-attaining students, praise that is meant to be encouraging and protective can actually convey a message of low expectations. The evidence shows children whose failure generates sympathy are more likely to attribute it to lack of ability,” the report says.

Read her full report here (£)

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