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Attainment grouping in English secondary schools: A national survey of current practices

Taylor, B; Hodgen, J; Tereshchenko, A; Gutiérrez, G; (2020) Attainment grouping in English secondary schools: A national survey of current practices. Research Papers in Education , 37 (2) pp. 199-220. 10.1080/02671522.2020.1836517. Green open access

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Abstract

Attainment grouping is a prevalent yet controversial practice, used in most English schools and on the rise internationally, despite evidence that it is detrimental to the majority of pupils. In England, no data is routinely recorded regarding these practices, and most research on student outcomes depends on a simplistic dichotomy between pupils grouped and ungrouped by attainment. We present the findings of a survey of attainment grouping practices in English secondary schools, providing an updated picture of the profile of attainment grouping in English and mathematics for students aged 11–16. Grouping in sets is dominant for mathematics and, while variants on mixed attainment grouping are frequently used for students aged 11–14 in English, the frequency of setting increases as students progress through secondary school. Schools with disadvantaged intakes are more likely to group by attainment. We also find that grouping practices are much more complex and dynamic in enactment than is implied by much of the literature and that teachers report that many schools adapt grouping strategies to meet the perceived needs of different cohorts. We provide an updated conceptualisation of grouping practices as a continuum and discuss its implications for current and future research.

Type: Article
Title: Attainment grouping in English secondary schools: A national survey of current practices
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/02671522.2020.1836517
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/02671522.2020.1836517
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Attainment grouping, ability grouping, secondary schools, setting, streaming
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment > Centre for Teachers and Teaching Research
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10113432
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