Student Grouping Study

This project and its evaluation were affected by the 2020 and 2021 partial school closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the delivery and evaluation have been affected and the project has been postponed to the next academic year. 

Schools that currently practice mixed attainment grouping in Years 7 and 8 will be recruited to the study. These schools will then be matched with schools that practice setting by attainment to provide a comparison group of schools. Differences in outcomes for pupils across these two schools will be looked at, including attainment differences and pupil self-confidence. In total 120 schools will be recruited to the study.

The study will be a ‘naturalistic experiment’ comparing existing grouping practices in schools rather than implementing a specific programme.

Why are we funding it?

Setting by attainment is practised in England to a varying degree and varies according to subject and year group. However, there is limited up-to-date and UK-based evidence about how this practice is carried out by schools, or how choices about student grouping alters outcomes for pupils. 

How are we evaluating it?

The project will use a matched design in a naturalistic context to investigate the differences in attainment and self-confidence of pupils taught in mixed attainment groups compared to pupils who are taught in sets. The team at IoE, with oversight from an independent steering group, will be carrying out this research.

The project will look at attainment using a standardised test in maths at the end of Year 8. The research will also look at outcomes for FSM pupils, low-prior attainers and high-prior attainers. The IoE team will also carry out an implementation and process evaluation to understand the diversity of grouping practices within schools. An independent advisory group has been appointed to provide independent scrutiny of the study.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2022.