Condition category
Not Applicable
Date applied
Date assigned
Last edited
Retrospectively registered
Overall trial status
Recruitment status
No longer recruiting
Publication status

Plain English Summary

Background and study aims
The subject of grouping school students based on their ability in academic subjects such as English and math is widely debated. Recent studies have shown that for children who have a record of low attainment at school previously, being taught in mixed ability groups can help them to progress better with their schoolwork. This initial study aims to find out whether teaching English and mathematics in in mixed attainment groups has an impact on attainment and self-confidence in these subjects. The study is also designed to test whether a larger trial testing this aim would be feasible.

Who can participate?
Secondary schools which currently (or are willing to) practice mixed ability grouping for English and/or math in years 7 and 8.

What does the study involve?
Included schools are randomly allocated into two groups. English and mathematics teachers at the schools included in the first group (intervention group) attend six intensive workshops as well as additional coaching in the school, in order to support teachers to support pupils and teach more effectively. Schools allocated to the second group (control group) continue with their student grouping practices as normal. After two years, pupils from all schools will take English and mathematics tests to find out if their level of attainment has changed compared to at the start of the study.

What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
There are no direct benefits of participating, however students may benefit in the long run as this research will increase knowledge on education policies in England. There are no foreseeable risks of participating.

Where is the study run from?
National Foundation for Educational Research, Slough (UK)

When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
March 2015 to November 2017

Who is funding the study?
Education Endowment Foundation (UK)

Who is the main contact?
Dr Ben Styles

Trial website

Contact information



Primary contact

Dr Ben Styles


Contact details

National Foundation for Educational Research
The Mere
Upton Park
United Kingdom
+44 (0)1753 637386

Additional identifiers

EudraCT number number

Protocol/serial number


Study information

Scientific title

Pilot randomised controlled trial to explore the use of mixed attainment grouping of year 7 and 8 students within English and mathematics



Study hypothesis

The primary research questions are:
1. Can secondary schools be recruited to a mixed attainment RCT?
2. What are the barriers to schools adopting a mixed attainment approach?

In addition, students will be tested to ensure that mixed attainment grouping does not result in a significant drop in attainment in mathematics and/or English. Pupil surveys will also be administered to measure self-confidence in mathematics and English.

Ethics approval

National Foundation for Educational Research Code of Practice Committee, 05/03/2015

Study design

Multi-centre pilot cluster randomised controlled trial

Primary study design


Secondary study design

Cluster randomised trial

Trial setting


Trial type

Quality of life

Patient information sheet


Attainment in Math and English in schools


This pilot trial will include two experimental groups: 20 Secondary schools will be randomly allocated to one of the two groups. For all schools, key stage 2 results will be used as baseline test data and GL assessment’s English and mathematics tests will be used as follow-up tests at the end of year 8, where a random sample of 60 pupils will be selected from each school.

Intervention group: The application of the intervention will involve presentation and application of the key pedagogic principles such as principles to be applied in grouping pupils and principles to be applied across groups. This will be facilitated by at least six intensive workshops attended by each key teacher in the pilot study, with additional coaching/critical friend support in school. These workshops will outline and justify the principles to be applied; and provide time, space and guidance for Year 7 mathematics and English teachers to design appropriate grouping approaches, support to pupils, and curriculum, for application of the principles in their own school context.

Control group: Schools from this group will continue with their student grouping practices as usual. Once they have completed the year 8 tests at the end of the trial, they will receive £1,000.

Intervention type



Drug names

Primary outcome measure

While this is not a fully powered trial, testing will take place in year 8 after two years of the intervention to ensure that mixed attainment grouping does not result in a significant drop in attainment in mathematics and/or English. A random sample of 60 pupils from year 8 will sit these tests in summer 2017. Their key stage 2 test results from academic year 2014-15 will be used to measure attainment at baseline.

Secondary outcome measures

Secondary outcome measures for this study are pupils’ self confidence in English and mathematics. These will be measured using a pupil survey at the start of year 7 in September 2015 and at the end of year 8 in summer 2017.

Overall trial start date


Overall trial end date


Reason abandoned (if study stopped)


Participant inclusion criteria

1. State secondary schools in England that currently practice mixed attainment grouping
2. State secondary schools in England willing to change their practice to mixed attainment grouping for English and/or maths in years 7 and 8

Participant type


Age group




Target number of participants

wenty Secondary schools will be randomly allocated to one of the two groups. The grouping practices will be applied to Year7 with an average cohort size of 180 pupils per school making it a total of 3,600 pupils involved in the study.

Participant exclusion criteria

Participants not fulfilling inclusion criteria.

Recruitment start date


Recruitment end date



Countries of recruitment

United Kingdom

Trial participating centre

National Foundation for Educational Research
The Mere Upton Park
United Kingdom

Sponsor information


Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)

Sponsor details

9th Floor
Millbank Tower
21 – 24 Millbank
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 207 802 1676

Sponsor type




Funder type


Funder name

Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)

Alternative name(s)

Funding Body Type

Funding Body Subtype


Results and Publications

Publication and dissemination plan

Education Endowment Foundation will publish a report on the results of the study.

Intention to publish date


Participant level data

Stored in repository

Basic results (scientific)

Publication list

2018 results in

Publication citations

Additional files

Editorial Notes

14/09/2018: Publication reference added.