account arrow-down-linearrow-down-small arrow-downarrow-download arrow-left-small arrow-leftarrow-link arrow-rightarrow-upaudio-less-volume audio-not-playing audio-plus-volume audio awarded books calendar close-modal closedate document education emailevent Facebookhamburger impact instagramjustice linkedin location-outline location opinion page phonepinterestplay pluspost preview project reports search-bigsearch-old search share startime twitterwelfare youtube zoom-in zoom-out

Measuring the disadvantage attainment gap in 16-19 education

Project overview

This project aims to develop a measure of the socio-economic educational attainment gap for the 16-19 phase of education – information which is already available for earlier stages of education. This will increase our understanding of how socioeconomic disadvantage affects attainment in this phase of education.

While 70% of 16 to 18 year olds are now in full-time education, existing research on school attainment gaps focuses on ages five to 16 and does not fully consider post-16 education. Disadvantaged 16 to 19 year olds have historically received less funding on average than more advantaged peers, and overall funding for post-16 education has faced more cuts than earlier stages of education. If our education system is to support social mobility, it requires a better understanding of the relationship between disadvantage and 16-19 attainment.

This project will develop a new measure of the attainment gap using administrative data (the Key Stage 5 National Pupil Database) and DfE points equivalences to define attainment across this age range. Disadvantage will be defined based on eligibility for free school meals in the six years prior to age 17. The researchers will investigate how much of the gap is due to different components, such as provider type and qualification pathways, and consider what might be driving the most influential components. The team will perform robustness checks, including using NPD-linked data from the Longitudinal Survey of Young People to explore more factors associated with the gap, such as pupil backgrounds, history and attitudes.

The measure created as part of the project will be used in Education Policy Institute’s annual education reports, providing timeseries evidence about the 16-19 attainment gap and recommendations about how it can be addressed. The findings will be disseminated in several published reports, including an overview report for a general audience, and officials and ministerial advisors will be offered presentations of the findings.


  • David Robinson
    Education Policy Institute
  • Jo Hutchinson
    Education Policy Institute
  • Sam Tuckett
    Education Policy Institute
  • Natalie Perera
    Education Policy Institute

  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

Explore our projects

Search projects

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.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.