Setting Arrangements

Setting and set change information:

Helsby High School is a school where setting forms part of the ethos in certain subjects, where appropriate . This best serves the needs of all students by allowing for the creation of a more targeted and appropriate learning environment by the class teacher, so that each individual has the best chance to maximise their potential. Students and their parents are aware of this when they make a positive choice to apply for a place at the school.
Integral to that are periodic changes made to the make-up of classes to reflect student progress.




  1. When do set changes happen?

Most commonly, but not exclusively, this will occur at the end of an academic year.


  1. Are the same criteria used for set change decisions in all subjects?

Each subject area generates their own setting arrangements and there may be slight differences, but the general principle is to use a combination of progress performance indicators through the year, and summative examination performance to inform any set changes.


  1. If my son/daughter has moved down sets does this mean my child is underachieving?

This may be the case, but it is not necessarily always so. For example, a scenario could occur whereby Student A has been reported as being ‘on track’ to achieve their minimum target level/grade on the half termly assessments through the year, and consultation evening conversations have reflected this. However, by the end of the year, there may be Student B in the set below who has been working above their target through the year, and who achieves a much higher exam mark too. In this case a department may look to move up Student B, at the expense of Student A. This is the nature of any system which ranks students (as external examinations do); rankings always have a top and bottom, and there is a finite capacity for class sizes.


  1. If there was a risk of a move down happening, why as parents were we not made aware?

Often subject staff will flag concerns up using progress, effort and/or behaviour indicators on the half termly student profile reports, or may do so at a consultation evening. But in some cases, as in the example above, this may not happen.


  1. Would a set down affect subject choices later in school?

In many cases this does not follow. In Humanities subjects for example, students from sets 1, 2, 3 and 4 can all choose GCSE courses in these subjects if they wish to. The same subject content is covered by all sets. Moreover, if any student demonstrates the appetite and ability to access more complex or advanced subject content, then class teachers are committed to providing this and will do so on an individual basis, regardless of what set the student is in. The school supports high expectations.


  1. Is any support offered if a student moves down sets?

This process is handled sensitively, with wherever possible subject teachers explaining the change to students in school first, along with the reasoning. This is soon followed by a letter home. When subject teachers are allocated new classes in September departments flag up any student who is new to the group (up or down), with a view to teachers monitoring their progress in particular, and being able to offer any academic / pastoral support as necessary.


  1. If I contact school is there a good chance the set change decision will be reversed?

Pastoral, and in this case subject staff, are always available to meet or have a conversation about the progress of any student, given realistic time constraints. However in these cases it is extremely unlikely the outcome of such a conversation would be to reverse the decision.