Class Setting and Children’s Non-Cognitive Outcomes

Emily McDool


Setting is one form of ability grouping which is widely adopted in English schools; it involves dividing pupils from the same cohort into classes according to ability in a specific subject. The effect of setting has long been debated; while the existing evidence identifies a negative effect on cognitive outcomes, especially for the low ability, little research has been undertaken to understand the impact of setting on non-cognitive outcomes. This paper provides the first evidence of setting on non-cognitive outcomes when adopting a nationally representative sample of primary aged pupils. Using Millennium Cohort Study data, Fixed Effects (FE) and Instrumental Variables (IV) methodologies are adopted to overcome potential unobserved heterogeneity and endogeneity. For boys, setting in maths negatively impacts non-cognitive outcomes, as measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. This effect is driven by a worsening of internalising behaviours. Little evidence is found for a significant impact of lowest set placement on non-cognitive outcomes.