Investigating Headteachers’ Impact on Grouping Practices: Justifying an Analysis on How Headteachers Incorporate Ideas of Equity into Grouping Practices

Romy Alexandra Claire Trigg-Smith


Despite research that continues to question the effectiveness of setting and ability-grouping strategies, schools maintain and increase stratifying practices, such as setting, banding and streaming, to raise attainment levels. While past studies in England have investigated various aspects of school-level grouping practices, there remains a gap in the research as researchers have not attempted to understand the ways that headteachers frame problems, consider and pursue equity and affect school-level decisions and practices with regards to grouping strategies. This article presents a literature review which frames the relevance of this issue. The discussion illuminates: how the policy climate has contributed to schools’ grouping decisions and headteachers’ work; how theories of ability and intelligence implicitly reinforce grouping practices; plausible frameworks for exploring equity in grouping; the importance of considering headteachers’ impact on grouping due to documented issues in practice and inconclusive evidence of grouping’s effects; and researchers’ recommendations for how leaders can counter inequity and inspire structural change.


leadership, ability grouping, equity, school improvement, orgnanization

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