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The effect of school inputs on educational achievements

Researchers: Dr Birgitta Rabe | Professor Cheti Nicoletti

Project overview

This project aims to establish whether school inputs, such as how much money is spent per pupil and staff-to-pupil ratios, have an effect on pupils’ educational attainments at the age of 16.

Specifically, the project has two objectives:

  • To analyse the effect of school inputs on pupils’ educational attainment at the end of compulsory schooling (i.e. at about age 16)
  • To test differences in returns to school inputs across children with diverse backgrounds and attainments.

The project takes up a topic that is high on the political agenda at the moment, given the current changes to the ways schools are funded. The results will inform about the likely consequences for pupils from different backgrounds of the current introduction of the ‘pupil premium’.

In particular, the research findings will help identify the groups of pupils that benefit most from school inputs and are therefore most vulnerable to spending cuts. The findings will also show whether school inputs so far have been effective for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. The results will be of great relevance for academics and education policy makers who are concerned with how funding is allocated to schools.

A key feature of the project is that it will look at differences between siblings, in order to net out any family and neighbourhood characteristics that influence educational attainments. Previous studies have had difficulties separating the effect of school inputs, but this study will use a sibling identifier in the data, which will allow this estimation technique to be used for the first time.

Ultimately, the project hopes to contribute to the discussion and policy-making on how best to allocate school resources to improve educational outcomes and therefore give children the best chance in life.


  • Dr Birgitta Rabe
    University of Essex
  • Professor Cheti Nicoletti
    University of Essex

  • 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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