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Best practice in grouping students

Best practice in grouping students

'Best Practice in Grouping Students' is an ongoing research project funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and conducted by researchers at King's College London. It is investigating which methods of grouping secondary school pupils are most effective in improving their educational engagement and attainment; with particular attention to improving the performance of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Becky Francis HomepageProfessor Becky Francis is leading the project team, which also comprises: Professor Jeremy Hodgen, Professor Louise Archer, Dr Rebecca Taylor, Dr Antonina Tereshchenko, Dr Anna Mazenod, Mary-Claire Travers and John Barlow (all from King’s College London), and Professor Paul Connolly and Dr Seaneen Sloan (Queen’s University Belfast). The project will be independently evaluated by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

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

'Best Practice in Grouping Students' is specifically designed to improve the educational attainment of these students by ensuring their progress is not detrimentally affected by poor practice and to assess the relative effectiveness of different methods of grouping students. The project seeks to achieve this through the implementation of two core interventions that ensure all students are equally able to access high quality teaching and a rich curriculum. One is a trial, 'Best Practice in Setting', and the other is a pilot study, 'Best Practice in Mixed Attainment'.

Best Practice in Setting aims to remedy the poor practice identified by research as being associated with lower sets. Best Practice in Mixed Attainment aims to ensure good practice in mixed attainment teaching contexts. This latter intervention is of significance as studies have shown that students with low attainment make better progress in these mixed groupings than do comparable students in low 'ability' sets and streams.

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Both the trial and pilot study involve schools undertaking evidence-based interventions which are evaluated for impact on attainment. The study group includes Key Stage 3 students (Years 7 & 8) in mathematics and English.

If you would like more information please contact John Barlow, who can be reached by email at, or by phone on 0207 848 3139 (answerphone).

Schools participating in the intervention can access resources here. Contact if you are having difficulties logging in.



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