University of Wollongong researchers have uncovered data that sheds new light on the best ways to organise classes in schools.

The study of student performance in the British A-Level exams has found improving the quality of a student’s peers can have a positive impact on their results.

Dr Silvia Mendolia, a senior lecturer in Economics at UOW, said this was especially true for lower-ability students.

“If we have all weak students grouped together, they are likely to be penalised and suffer quite a bit from this grouping,” she said.

The implication of the research is that streaming students according to skill level is a poor choice for weaker students.

An increase in peer quality by one standard-deviation led to an increase in the test scores for students in the bottom 20 per cent by up to 50 points.

However, Dr Mendolia was quick to warn that peer quality wasn’t the only influence over a student’s performance.

“We really need to consider all the other factors that come into play, like the role of the teacher’s quality, the role of the curriculum organisation,” Dr Mendolia said.