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The heterogeneous effect of selection in secondary schools: understanding the changing role of ability

Centre for the Economics of Education, London School of Economics and Political Science
Publication Date
  • L Education (General)
  • Education


selectioninsecondaryschools_26Jul.doc The Heterogeneous Effect of Selection in Secondary Schools: Understanding the Changing Role of Ability Fernando Galindo-Rueda Anna Vignoles May 2005 Published by Centre for the Economics of Education London School of Economics Houghton Street London WC2A 2AE © Fernando Galindo-Rueda and Anna Vignoles, submitted April 2005 ISBN 07530 1848 9 Individual copy price: £5 The Centre for the Economics of Education is an independent research centre funded by the Department for Education and Skills. The views expressed in this work are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the DfES. All errors and omissions remain the authors. Executive Summary There has been a substantial rise in British education levels in recent decades, and new empirical evidence suggests that less able but wealthier children have benefited most from this expansion, at least during the 1970s and 1980s. There are many potential explanations for this trend. For example, during this period, the UK’s highly selective ‘grammar school’ system was largely dismantled. It is possible that reducing the extent of selection by ability in the UK education system may have altered the relationship between ability, family background and educational achievement, reducing the impact of ability on achievement and increasing the impact of family income and other family background factors. We test this hypothesis using data from the UK in the 1970s. Whilst the impact of the UK grammar system is of course of enormous historical interest, this issue also has significant policy relevance today. Certainly selection remains a topical issue. In the UK and indeed in the US, there have been recent policy initiatives that have attempted to explicitly or implicitly increase selection in the school system. Furthermore, in some parts of the UK,

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