Less bright children perform better at primary school when they are in a class with pupils of similar ability – as long as they are being stretched academically, according to a new report by the government’s macro-economic think-tank CPB.
Children who are not performing well benefit from smaller classes, lessons during holidays and extra tuition, the CPB said. They may also benefit from being in a class with clever pupils but do best in a class with children on their own level, where they can shine.
‘If a teacher asks a question in a mixed ability class, it is always the brightest children who answer,’ CPB researcher Bas ter Weel told the NOS. ‘And that means the less bright children don’t get a look in.’
The research looked at 160 different educational measures from primary to university level. It also found that pupils benefit most from teachers who have good social skills and who are enthusiastic about their subjects. Pupils taught by teachers with a master’s degree do no better than the rest.
The government is keen to ensure all teachers have master’s degrees, which it says will boost standards.
However, Wouter Siebers, who teaches in Amersfoort and is currently ‘teacher of the year’, told broadcaster Nos that schools are much more than factories of learning.
Primary school classes are places where children from all walks of society should meet, he said. In addition, the social skills necessary to be a teacher are often undervalued, he said.
‘Education is about contact, trust and development, and it begins with the contact between teacher and pupil,’ he said. ‘If someone stands at the front of the classroom and says “open your books and we are going to start on page 26”, then I don’t think that’s going to motivate them.’
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