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Funding, School Specialization, and Test Scores: An Evaluation of the Specialist Schools Policy Using Matching Models


  • Steve Bradley
  • Giuseppe Migali
  • Jim Taylor


We evaluate the causal association between the specialist schools policy, a UK reform that has increased funding and encouraged secondary school specialization in particular subjects, and pupils' test score outcomes. Using the National Pupil Database, we estimate difference-in-difference matching models. We find a small, positive, and statistically significant causal effect on test scores at age 16. Pupils from poorer social backgrounds benefited more than pupils from richer backgrounds; pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds benefited less. We disentangle the funding effect from a specialization effect, which yields a relatively large proportionate improvement in test scores in particular subjects.

Suggested Citation

  • Steve Bradley & Giuseppe Migali & Jim Taylor, 2013. "Funding, School Specialization, and Test Scores: An Evaluation of the Specialist Schools Policy Using Matching Models," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 76-106.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jhucap:doi:10.1086/669203

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Aakvik, Arild, 2001. " Bounding a Matching Estimator: The Case of a Norwegian Training Program," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 63(1), pages 115-143, February.
    2. Petra E. Todd & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2003. "On The Specification and Estimation of The Production Function for Cognitive Achievement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages 3-33, February.
    3. Steve Bradley & Giuseppe Migali, 2012. "The direct and indirect effects of education policy on school and post school outcomes," Working Papers 24958831, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    4. Stephen Machin & Sandra McNally & Costas Meghir, 2004. "Improving Pupil Performance in English Secondary Schools: Excellence in Cities," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 396-405, 04/05.
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    Cited by:

    1. Steve Bradley & Giuseppe Migali, 2014. "The Effects of the Specialist Schools Education Policy on School and Post-School Outcomes in England," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 28(4), pages 449-465, December.

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