Banding is a system in which school pupils are grouped into broad ability bands. Differential treatment of bands by teachers may result in pupils internalising positive or negative self-esteem and impact on educational performance. Banding may result in school counter-cultures among pupils in bottom bands. Hargreaves & Lacey found that teachers had lower expectations of the lower band pupils and responded differently to them. The lower band pupils felt denied status and responded by being anti-social and expressed as this. In Stephen Ball’s study of banding in a comprehensive school, he showed that banding had similar effects to streaming in the creation of pupil subcultures. Marxists see banding as a means by which the hidden curriculum convinces working class pupils that they are to blame for their own educational failure and therefore deserving of manual work.


What is setting?


Setting is a form of dividing pupils into groups (sets) for particular subjects based on their ability in those subjects. E.g. top set for English, middle set for French and bottom set for Maths. This is different from streaming in that children are divided for individual lessons, rather than across the curriculum.


What is streaming?


Streaming is the separation of pupils in schools into different ability groups. Middle class children dominate top streams and children with unskilled manual parents are disproportionately found in bottom streams. Symbolic interactionists view streaming as a form of institutionalised labelling in which top streams are composed of middle class ideal pupils and bottom streams composed of problematic working class and ethnic minority children. Teachers transmit academic knowledge to the top streams and vocational knowledge to the bottom streams. Pupils react by forming counter cultures which result in a self-fulfilling prophecy and confirm teacher expectations. Marxist phenomenologist: Paul Willis – ‘lads’ and ‘earoles’ critical of symbolic interactionists.


Do the above processes invariably lead to boys adapting or even adopting a certain mode of behaviour as they have preconceptions as to what teachers see them as being. If they are in a low set/band/stream will this invariably produce poor behaviour along with a poor work ethic as this is the modus operandi that boys may well assumes goes with low setting/banding/streaming etc.


Stephen J Ball examined boys and setting in 1982 and identified four types of boys within schools; Ball divided the four types of boys into two groups.


The first group he labelled pro-school and put in two levels to this group: the first was ‘supportive’ of school because they believed in the value of an education. The second was ‘manipulative’ as it was merely in their interests to support school as they did only what was good for themselves.


The second group Ball labelled ‘anti-school’. Ball identified ‘passive boys’ who drifted into non-conformist behaviour. He also identified those he labelled ‘rejecting’ – boys who simply rejected the value of schools and an education.


In 1975, Hargreaves, Hester & Mellor examined teacher perception of new pupils and the way they typecast new pupils. They found that three stages existed with regards to pupil typecasting:


  1. Speculation: an initial tentative typing based on such things as appearance.


  1. Elaboration: initial hypothesis is confirmed or rejected or substituted.


  1. Stabilisation: the teacher believes s/he knows the pupil and the correct way to respond to them.


If a pupil is typecast in a certain manner by teachers, is it possible for them to break out of this typecast and generate for themselves a new ‘image’ – a more positive one that will get a more positive response from teachers within a school? Or is it more likely that a pupil with a negative typecast, will live up to this image and only reinforce a teacher’s view that they were right all along with their assessment of that pupil?


Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex