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The academic trajectory of disadvantaged pupils during Key Stage 3

Researchers: Dr Will Cook | Prof Stephen Morris

By Nuffield Foundation

Project overview

The aim of this study is to investigate how socio-economic disadvantage influences attainment during the early years of secondary education. The project focuses on Key Stage 3 which has been the subject of less research than earlier and later years of education.

The project will consist of a rapid evidence review of socio-economic disadvantage and the early secondary phase. This will be followed by analysis of longitudinal survey data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) to identify risk factors that might give rise to diverging trajectories by socio-economic background at this schooling stage.

The project will also employ econometric techniques to evaluate three policies targeted at early secondary education – Year 7 progress tests (2001-2007), the Gifted and Talented programme (2005-2011), and summer schools targeting disadvantaged pupils prior to entering Year 7 (2012-2016) – to test whether they reduced the attainment gap at GCSE.

The results will provide new evidence to inform which policies might be effective at limiting the development and widening of socio-economic disadvantage at this stage in schooling and beyond.


  • Dr Will Cook
    Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Prof Stephen Morris
    Manchester Metropolitan University

  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • 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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