Social Statistics

Society, Statistics (and some sermons)

Social Statistics - Society, Statistics (and some sermons)

Working paper: Who benefits from grammar schools? A case study of Buckinghamshire, England

Working paper. Not for publication, reproduction or citation. Just for interest!

With education policies in England expanding the range of secondary school types available, some commentators have sought to defend and promote the historically older selective system where those pupils who pass an entrance exam are taught in separate schools from others. They do so arguing that selective schools produce higher learning outcomes and aid social mobility by giving some pupils from poorer households an educational opportunity they could not otherwise access. Continue reading

Social segregation between London’s secondary schools, 2003 – 2008/9

This working paper uses local measures of spatial segregation to look at segregation by free school meal eligibility between London’s state-funded secondary schools. It also looks at differences between education authorities, types of selecting and non-selecting schools, and, longitudinally, for cohorts of pupils entering the schools in each of the years from 2003 to 2008.

The key findings are:

Sizable differences between competing schools in the proportions of free school meal eligible pupils they recruit.

Selective schools especially but also faith schools (on average) under-recruit such pupils.

Some evidence that differences between schools have decreased over the period but the trend is most likely an artifact of using free school meals as a measure of disadvantage.

The report is available here.

Oldham schools still polarised 10 years on from race riots?

An article, jointly written with Professor Simon Burgess, also of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation, has been picked up by The Guardian today (p11, also at

The article uses standard measures of segregation and data available at to show that Oldham’s schools remain highly segregated ten years after the civil disturbances there.

One correction, though. The article implies that this is despite a policy to close and merge the most segregated schools. This is slightly misleading. In fact, the policy is only beginning to gain momentum and it is too soon to gauge the results of this intervention (click here, here and here for three Newsnight reports on it). Personally, I wish the schools, the local authority, and the parents and pupils of Oldham every success.

A copy of our article is available here.

Do lower and higher attaining pupils go to different schools after leaving primary school?

A working paper using methods of spatial analysis to show that lower and higher attaining pupils are separating from each other as they make the transition from primary to secondary schools in London. The observation is not simply a function of geography – that some places are more affluent, with a link between wealth and educational advantage – because separations emerge between locally competing secondary schools: those that are drawing their intakes from the same primary schools. Whilst the separations are partly exacerbated by selective and by faith schools, in all but one year during the period 2003-8 they remain statistically significant even when those schools are omitted. However, there is no evidence to suggest the separation of lower and higher attaining pupils is getting worse or better, suggesting the geographical determinants of “choice” are strong and not easily changed. Download here.

Image: zirconicusso /

1-in-6 miss 1st choice school, or 5-in-6 don’t?

There is an article in today’s Guardian reporting on a poll of 12 local education authorities in England and finding that one-in-six children (15.8%) will miss out on their first choice secondary school.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it, until the statistic is turned around: the vast majority are getting places in their school of first choice.

In fact, the article goes on to say that less than 3% of pupils won’t be in any of their preferred schools. Or, in other words, 97% will.

Now, of course it’s disappointing for those who don’t get to go where they would have wanted but in a system that tries to match the number of pupils to the number of places with as little surplus (i.e. excess cost) as possible not everyone can get their first preference. It’s inevitable and, in itself, not especially newsworthy.

The real question is whether the possibility of getting to a first choice school – or, perhaps more crucially, a school they will enjoy and perform well as – is the same for all social groups or do some have “more choice” than others?

There is a wealth of material about this and you fill find many of them summarised here.

The Guardian article is here.