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Measuring Pupil Attainment in English Secondary Schools: A Preliminary Analysis


  • Adele Atkinson
  • Deborah Wilson



The purpose of this paper is to examine patterns of attainment of boys and girls at different stages of their secondary education and to investigate factors that may affect pupil outcomes. We employ a national dataset of matched examination results, recently released by the Department for Education and Skills, which includes the results of the cohort of pupils who sat Key Stage 3 exams at age 14 in 1997 and GCSE (or equivalent) exams at age 16 in 1999. We find a consistent picture of boys underachieving relative to their female peers. This gender gap widens between the ages of 14 and 16. Grammar schools outperform comprehensives and secondary moderns for both boys and girls at both Key Stage 3 and GCSE. This is no longer the case when we consider a measure of the ‘value added’ by different school types between these two stages. For example, we find that comprehensives add more value on average than grammar schools for female pupils. The relative importance of gender and school type (here proxied by admissions policy) on pupil outcomes depends on which measure of pupil attainment we consider.

Suggested Citation

  • Adele Atkinson & Deborah Wilson, 2003. "Measuring Pupil Attainment in English Secondary Schools: A Preliminary Analysis," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 03/063, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  • Handle: RePEc:bri:cmpowp:03/063

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    education; pupil attainment; gender gap;

    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • L3 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise

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