The year 7 class are having their first Science Lesson. Edward in the front row is bursting with enthusiasm, his little hand reaching for the sky as Miss Jones asks a question about the Sun. He knows all the names of the planets and is fascinated by anything to do with dinosaurs, Astronomy and things that go fast. He has a Chemistry Set at home and is desperately keen to learn how to blow things up.
Two rows back, Brandon and Lee do not know the answer. Brandon has a reading age of six and an ability level that prevents him from doing anything more complicated than drawing and colouring in. His writing is totally illegible and he cannot do basic arithmetic. He has no support teacher today, as she is only with him for three lessons out of five.
Lee has a similar ability but never even has a support teacher because he has not been statemented; a lengthy process which must be completed before any help can be paid for. For some reason his previous school never managed to do it, which is not unusual.
At the front, Miss Jones has a choice: she can either spend a huge amount of her time helping Brandon and Lee, or she can concentrate on the middle ability level of the group and simply let these two do something trivial. Either way, she has no time to answer Edward's numerous questions on asteroids and comets. She is starting to get fed up with him, as he makes her feel guilty. He keeps saying that the work is far too easy and is becoming bored and disillusioned with Science.
Let's not pretend or mince our words here- Miss Jones is simply wasting Brandon, Lee and Edward's time.
It's not her fault- she is only human and cannot possibly deal with such a ridiculously large spectrum of abilities. Deep down, she feels that mixed ability classes seem to let down the best and the worst. All she has ever been told however, is how great it is that the school is so 'inclusive'.
In my opinion, Lee and Brandon should not be in this lesson at all. They should be learning to read and write, to add up and subtract. They should be with people who are trained to teach these things, not Secondary School teachers. They should never have left Primary school until they have mastered these skills, because without them, they will never be employed.
Instead their next lesson is French...
Edward is also being let down and shouldn't be in this lesson. The school will not worry one jot about him however, as the chances are that he will muddle through and get a 'c' grade, so he is just forgotten about. In another scenario he would have grown up to become a great scientist.
The above story is happening right now at a school near me.
Unfortunately it's also happening at one near you.