IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


New IOE book examines the impact of attainment grouping

26 September 2019

A new book examining attainment grouping and how it is an obstacle to raising pupil attainment has launched today (26 September) at UCL Institute of Education (IOE).

Grouping Study book launch

‘Reassessing 'Ability' Grouping: Improving Practice for Equity and Attainment’ by IOE Director Professor Becky Francis, Dr Becky Taylor and Dr Antonina Tereshchenko examines research from the Best practice in grouping students project.

The project, which found that setting is unlikely to boost learning for all pupils and pupils were at risk of being misallocated to the wrong set, is explored in detail in the book.

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The project findings raised concerns about bias in setting. The researchers discovered that once differences in socioeconomic background were controlled for, girls were 1.55 times more likely to be misallocated to a lower maths set than boys. Also, black pupils were 2.54 times more likely to be misallocated to a lower set in maths, compared with white pupils.

Using evidence from the project, the book looks at wider political debates on pupils' social backgrounds and educational attainment. Its chapters discuss the practicalities of classroom practice, and recommend improved practice to maximise pupil outcomes, experiences and equity.

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It also explores the impact of attainment grouping on pupil self-confidence and pupils’ experiences of different grouping practices.

The launch event saw Professor Francis, Dr Taylor and Dr Tereshchenko in conversation with TES journalist Ann Mroz. The authors spoke about how there is limited movement between sets and that this lack of movement has a negative impact on pupils in the lower sets.

They also stressed that changing to mixed ability grouping does not have to be overwhelming, particularly given the context of overworked teachers. Instead, there are small changes schools can make to implement improvements to grouping, as detailed in their guide: 'Dos and Don’ts of attainment grouping' (PDF).

‘Reassessing 'Ability' Grouping: Improving Practice for Equity and Attainment’ was published in September 2019 by Routledge.