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Best Practice in Grouping Students


A research project funded by the Education Endowment Foundation.


New paper: Teacher ‘quality’ and attainment grouping: The role of within-school teacher deployment in social and educational inequality

By Becky Taylor, on 11 October 2018

We have published a new paper!

Prior research suggests that students in lower attaining sets are more likely to be taught by teachers who are less well-qualified and less experienced. Furthermore, research suggests that students in lower sets are likely to experience lower quality pedagogy and curriculum. Our new paper uses data from our surveys and student focus groups to explore whether these findings persist to the present day. We also consider the findings in relation to social justice and consider whether more equitable deployment of teachers is possible.

We found that there is some evidence of inequitable deployment of teachers to different sets. In particular, students in the lowest sets were less likely to be taught by someone with a degree in the subject. Lowest sets also had the largest proportion of teachers with just a GCSE qualification in the subject taught. The good news is that this pattern appeared slightly mitigated by our Best Practice in Setting intervention, which was designed to improve equity in deployment.

Pupils perceived teaching standards and teacher expectations to differ according to set, identifying teachers of high sets to be more likely to be strict, while teachers of lower sets were more likely to be laid-back. Middle set student Mandy captured the view expressed by many when she characterised top sets as “pushed to the limit” while lower sets “get it a little bit easy”.

You can read the full article here for free until 30 November 2018 (paywall after).

Francis, B., Hodgen, J., Craig, N., Taylor, B., Archer, L., Mazenod, A., Tereshchenko, A., & Connolly, P. (2019) Teacher ‘quality’ and attainment grouping: The role of within-schoolteacher deployment in social and educational inequality. Teaching and Teacher Education, 77, 183-192. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2018.10.001

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