Institute of Education


The Student Grouping Study: Investigating the impact of setting and mixed-attainment grouping

Investigating the impact of mixed attainment grouping and setting on outcomes in mathematics for students aged 11-13.

The Student Grouping Study is funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and conducted by researchers at UCL Institute of Education. 

We are recruiting schools to the mixed-attainment maths group for the study

If you are from a state-funded, non-selective school in England, where mathematics is taught to mixed attainment classes in Years 7 and 8, please email us for more information about how to get involved: ioe.groupingstudents@ucl.ac.uk


Setting (grouping by attainment in a specific subject) is the dominant practice in mathematics classes in England.

Impact of socio-economic backgrounds

Previous research has shown that students from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to be over-represented in lower 'ability' sets and streams. They also make less progress than their counterparts in higher attainment groups. These lower sets and streams can additionally be subject to elements of poor practice such as being taught a different curriculum at a different pace, poorer quality teaching and low expectations for their attainment.

Mixed attainment grouping

This may be a preferable alternative, as some research suggests it may not have the same negative effects as setting. However, there has been no rigorous study comparing these practices in England.


The Student Grouping Study aims to compare attainment and self-confidence outcomes for students taught mathematics in mixed attainment groups with outcomes for students taught mathematics in sets.

We will be recruiting schools that teach mathematics to students in mixed attainment groups  (Years 7 and 8). We will then match these schools to schools that teach mathematics to students in sets and compare outcomes for the two groups.

Independent steering group

The Student Grouping Study has the support of an independent steering group, appointed by the Education Endowment Foundation:

  • Professor Rob Coe, Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, Durham University
  • Dr Heather Rolfe, National Institute of Social and Economic Research
  • Dr Stefan Speckesser, National Institute of Social and Economic Research