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Best practice in grouping students

Care about supporting the progress of all your students, and raising the achievement of disadvantaged kids?



Sign up to our project on grouping students!

Ok then, we will!

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‘Ability grouping’, versus mixed-‘ability’ teaching, has been a topic of long-standing debate in the UK; as recently illustrated by the recent ‘non-announcement from the Government’ about mandatory setting, and the response to this on social media. As the Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit highlights, a large body of research suggests that grouping students by ‘ability’ has no significant effect overall; but that there is a negative impact for pupils in the lowest groups. This is significant for the ‘closing the gap’ and social justice agendas, given that a) disadvantaged students are over-represented in ‘low ability’ groups, and b) pupils in these low groups tend to make less progress than those in higher ones.

However, as Tim Dracup points out in his blog on the matter, there are some limitations with the (large) body of research in this area, too. Although the findings are conclusive, often there is a lack of specification about different methods of ‘ability grouping’ studied. More importantly, no-one seems to have investigated what happens if the poor practices commonly associated with low attainment groups are addressed – ie, is it the act of grouping by ‘ability’ itself, or the practices associated with it, that explain the poorer progress of students in low groups?

The King’s College project ‘Best Practice in grouping Students’ is funded by the Education Edowment Foundation, and seeks to test the impact of different approaches to pupil grouping on progress and educational attainment outcomes for low attaining young people (often disadvantaged pupils), in order to draw conclusions concerning what works in raising the attainment. The project includes two interventions constructed on the basis of research evidence: one on Best Practice in Setting; and one on Best Practice in Mixed-Attainment grouping. These are being applied to Year 7 cohorts, in the subjects of Maths and English. More information on the project can be found here.

We are really excited to participate in the project in 2015/16 as we think it will help us achieve an evidence informed perspective on our grouping strategies. Schools participating in the interventions will benefit from free, high quality, CPD, and the opportunity to be supported to ensure good practice in grouping students (and thus to support pupil attainment).

As a school we have a strong commitment to ensuring educational equality and believe our involvement in this study will narrow attainment gaps further.

We will be designated an EEF Research Partner Schools and as such will have permission to use the EEF logo on our website.

Benefits of participation to us include:

  • Free, high quality professional development
  • Access to research on best practice
  • Practical strategies for raising attainment
  • Evidence-based guidance on differentiation
  • Approaches to address Progress 8
  • Direct involvement in research
  • The option of access to free NFER tests to assess your students’ progress

Please contact Professor Becky Francis for further information:

Contact: groupingstudents@kcl.ac.uk

Professor Becky Francis, King’s College London

Follow the trial on Twitter @GroupingStudy



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