Setting Arrangements

Setting and set change information:

Helsby High School is a school where students are grouped differently depending on the specific subject area or Key Stage of learning. In Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4, grouping models will be decided based on student progress data and researched based evidence. This might be in mixed ability groups, or where appropriate, groups set based on students’ prior attainment. It is a key aim of Helsby High School to group students in a way that ensures that all students perform to the best of their ability and make good progress. Within each group, set or mixed ability class, there will be differences and students will exhibit a wide variety of strengths and areas for development. Influential research shows that grouping that is assertive, thoughtfully planned, rigorously monitored and evaluated in order to be able to assess the impact on students’ achievement and progress, can have a significant and a positive effect on students’ progress. Students and their parents are aware of this when they make a positive choice to apply for a place at Helsby High School.

Integral to this process are periodic changes made to the make-up of classes to reflect students’ progress over time to ensure that all students are challenged in their learning to fulfil their potential



  1. When do set changes happen?

Most commonly, but not exclusively, this will occur at the end of an academic year. Classes will be reviewed periodically in-line with the reporting of student progress data and changes made where appropriate in consultation with the student and their parent/carer.


  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 student progress information throughout 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 Expected Grade on the assessments throughout 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 Expected Grade throughout 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 Student Profile Reports, or may do so at a consultation evening. But in some cases, as in the example above, this may not happen. However, if you do have any concerns regarding your son/daughter’s set in a particular subject, then you can contact the school via telephone or email to speak to the Departmental Leader in that area.


  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 for all students and believes that all students have the ability to make good progress in any subject area.


  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, Departmental Leaders and if needed Senior Leaders, 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.