IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Dr Eleanore Hargreaves wins funding for study on children at the 'bottom' of the class

21 December 2017

Dr Eleanore Hargreaves has been awarded a Leverhulme research grant worth £258,000 to develop a project focusing on primary school children at the 'bottom' of the class.

Primary school girl in orange

The five-year project will observe 24 pupils' experience of being in 'bottom' groups from age 7-12, following them from Year 3 to Year 7 in secondary school.

Through observing, interviewing and filming the children at frequent intervals over five years, the study aims to explore the effects of ability grouping on the pupils' ability to flourish personally and socially.

As well as exploring how pupils experience grouping personally and socially, the project will examine which factors influence their experience across five years of school life.

Dr Hargreaves said: "Currently, most primary pupils are grouped by 'ability' at school. However, 'ability' grouping appears to reduce the learning, as well as personal and social flourishing, of pupils in 'bottom' groups. The concept of innate 'ability' is also problematic. Almost no previous research has addressed the complex ways in which those labelled as 'low ability' become impeded in their learning and flourishing.

"Our proposed research uses life-history methodology to build up detailed school-life histories of pupils in 'bottom' groups. These school-life histories will vividly portray their experiences day-by-day and year-on-year across five years from age seven in primary [Year 3] to age 12 in secondary school [end of Year 7]."

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