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Better Schools for All? The impact of school effectiveness on pupils

Researchers: Professor Alex Bryson | David Wilkinson ...

Project overview

There is a perception that there is huge variance in pupil attainment across schools, even on ‘value added’ measures accounting for the quality of the pupil intake. Attainment in many schools is deemed unacceptable by parents and appears low by international standards. This has led the government to embark on a large-scale overhaul of education in England with an emphasis on increasing school autonomy, devolving pay setting and resource management to schools. The expectation is that these changes, together with a more rigorous inspection regime, will deliver improved results across all schools.

This study will establish how much of the variance in pupil attainment in England is related to school “effectiveness”. It will do so by linking data from five large-scale datasets: the School Workforce Census, National Pupil Database, Consistent Financial Reporting returns, school inspection data from Ofsted, and the Workplace Employment Relations Survey.

The researchers will identify the school level traits ‘ such as staffing, resourcing and governance ‘ that are linked to school effectiveness, and show how these are changing over time. They will examine which aspects of these traits appear most salient in improving outcomes for pupils ‘ including those with average attainment, and disadvantaged pupils towards the bottom of the attainment distribution.

By drawing out the policy implications of the analysis, the researchers aim to help policy makers at the national, local and school level to improve the attainment of pupils in England.

Latest on this project


  • Professor Alex Bryson
    University College London
  • David Wilkinson
    UCL Institute of Education
  • Lucy Stokes
    National Institute of Economic and Social Research

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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