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The University of Exeter's Grammar for Writing Programme

Grammar for Writing aims to improve the writing skills of Year 6 pupils by thinking about how their writing communicates with the reader, rather than by focusing on grammar. This evaluation found little evidence that Grammar for Writing provided additional gains in writing outcomes compared to usual teaching.

Why did we do this research?

Figures suggested that Key Stage 2 attainment in English had remained static over the previous few years: 79% of pupils achieved Level 4 or above in 2005, with a slight rise to 82% in 2011. In terms of writing standards, there was some evidence of a decrease overall, and English tending to be weaker amongst pupils who were eligible for free school meals.

We evaluated a modified version of the Grammar for Writing Programme, aimed at improving the writing skills of Year 6 children who are less able writers, especially those working at Key Stage 2 Level 3 or a fragile Key Stage 2 Level 4.

What did we do?

We undertook a large pragmatic randomised controlled trial where schools were randomly allocated to either a Grammar for Writing group or a business as usual group. Within the grammar for writing group, individual children who meet the inclusion criteria were randomly allocated to receive either enhanced small group support or to remain within the wider class. All pupils from the included classes completed the GL Assessment Progress in English (PiE) 11 (Long Form).

What did we find?

We found only a relatively small effect size (approximately 0.10 standard deviations difference) on the GL Assessment measure between the classes randomised to receive the intervention and those continuing with ‘business as usual’. This difference was not statistically significant, suggesting it may have occurred due to chance. 



David Torgerson, Carole Torgerson, Natasha Mitchell, Hannah Buckley, Hannah Ainsworth, Clare Heaps, Laura Jefferson.February 2014. Grammar for Writing Evaluation Report and Executive Summary.

David Torgerson and Carole Torgerson. April 2013. Independent Evaluation of University of Exeter’s Grammar for Writing programme. A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial. Trial protocol

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Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK


  • Carole Torgerson
  • Clare Heaps

School of Education, Durham University, Durham, UK




The research was commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation. The project was started in January 2013 and completed in December 2013.

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