Schools do turn the scales

6th November 1998 at 00:00
The study has confirmed previous research that "schools do make a difference". Although prior attainment and background are the biggest influences on pupil achievement and on differences between schools, up to a third of the spread of pupil achievement and progress in primary schools can be put down to the school itself.

Secondaries appear to be less influential, accounting for up to 7 per cent of variation in attainment in 1997 after pupils' previous performance and background was taken into account. This could make the difference between getting six Standard grades at level 2 and six at level 3 for a similar pupil attending the most and least effective of the 36 secondaries surveyed.

Differential effects have also undermined assumptions about the extent to which girls always do better than boys in exams. The study found that while boys began performing less well than girls as early as the late primary stages, girls made less progress in maths between primary 4 and primary 6.

The strongest predictor of S4 achievement, the study states, is pupils' S2 performance in reading and maths. Early intervention in secondary schools should be recognised as the crucial factor, as it is in primaries.

The report makes clear that all schools, not just the most advantaged, can make a difference. The secondary school with the highest free meal entitlement, for example, performed above expectation in two of the three Standard grade measures.

Professor MacBeath said: "Challenging schools' limiting beliefs about what they can achieve is at the heart of what school effectiveness and school improvement are all about."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today