Has the specialist schools initiative improved student outcomes?

The specialist schools programme is a key component of the Labour Government's attempt to improve educational attainment in England's secondary schools through its choice and diversity strategy. The aim of this project was to estimate the impact of the programme on educational outcomes. The researchers sought answers to three main questions:

  1. Has there been a significant improvement in the exam performance of students attending specialist schools compared to non-specialist schools?
  2. Has the programme influenced post-16 outcomes, such as educational attainment at age 18?
  3. Have there been any significant distributional consequences of the programme, such as differential impacts according to gender, ethnicity and prior attainment?

It was necessary to control the sorting of students between schools if a school’s own influence on the educational attainment of its students was to be accurately estimated. This project aimed at producing policy-relevant results.

Project details



Professor Jim Taylor, Professor Steven Bradley, Mr Colin Green, Lancaster University

Grant amount and duration

1 October 2007 - 30 September 2009



'Diversity, choice and the quasi-market: An empirical analysis of secondary education policy in England', Bradley S and Taylor J, Lancaster, 2008

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The final version of this article is published in the Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 72

'The distributional impact of increased school resources: the Specialist School Initiative and the Excellence in Cities Programme ', Taylor J, Bradley S and Migali G, Lancaster, 2009

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'Funding, school specialisation and test scores: An evaluation of the specialist schools policy using matching models', Bradley S, Migali G and Taylor J, Lancaster, 2009

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'The effect of increased school resources on labour market and post-compulsory education outcomes', Bradley S, Green C, Migali G and Taylor J, Lancaster, 2009

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