Learner experiences of low attainment groups in the context of a rights approach to education

Carmel Conn*, David Vittle Thomas, Cathryn Knight, Charlotte Greenway, Lisa Formby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Participation is seen as an important right for learners, though there is lack of evidence to understand learners’ views on classroom practice. This includes decisions about grouping learners, for example, in terms of their prior attainment or perceived ‘ability’. This research took place in Wales where children’s rights are strongly promoted as an educational approach, but where there is also evidence of attainment grouping in schools. Focus groups and interviews were carried out with secondary school learners in lower attaining groups (n=70) and teachers and teaching assistants (n=10) to understand experiences of learning support. Findings suggest strong learner satisfaction with groups, but also lack of movement between groups that reinforced ability hierarchies in schools and supported the development of negative identities for some learners. There was lack of consensus amongst educators about the purpose of attainment grouping, some seeing it as a way of addressing systemic issues within the school.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2311640
Number of pages17
JournalPedagogy, Culture and Society
Issue number00
Early online date1 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Feb 2024


  • Lower attaining learners
  • participation
  • children's rights
  • attainment grouping


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