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Choice and competition - not generally effective in raising primary school standards

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A study by researchers at LSE concludes that 'choice and competition does not seem to be generally effective in raising standards' in primary schools.

The paper Competition, Choice and Pupil Achievement by Stephen Gibbons, Stephen Machin and Olmo Silva was published in January, as a discussion paper of the Centre for the Economics of Education, based at LSE. Their research used a large administrative census of primary school pupils in London and the surrounding area.

The authors found that:

  • pupils who have a wider choice of schools at their place of residence perform no better than those with limited choice
  • secular school located in places where they face strong competition from other schools perform no better than secular schools located in more isolated, monopolistic settings
  • church schools seem to respond more positively to competition, particularly from other church schools.
  • the benefits of competition seem strongest among pupils in church schools with the highest concentration of low-income children
  • on balance, choice and competition does not seem to be generally effective in raising standards in the school context.

Dr Olmo Silva said: 'On the one hand, we cannot claim that choice and competition universally increase pupil achievements. Yet, our results suggest that competition among faith schools could be an effective tool to raise education standards; and the benefits seem to be the strongest for the most disadvantaged pupils. Given the evidence at hand, we can only speculate that this is attributable to religious fervour or more proactive governance.

'Importantly, our results can only marginally contribute to the current debate about alternative forms of school governance, or structure. In fact, our concept of competition is primarily based on geographical accessibility to schools in the neighbourhood, rather than directly capturing school behaviour. All in all, our conclusion is that competition pressures only seem to work in specific sub-sets of the primary schools markets.'

To read the paper, click here http://cee.lse.ac.uk/pubs/default.asp| 

Ends

Contact Dr Olmo Silva, on 020 7852 3416 or email o.silva@lse.ac.uk|

Press cuttings

Independent
New doubt over benefit of schools reform plan (31 Jan 06)
A study by the London School of Economics dealt a major blow to Tony Blair's education reforms by rejecting the link between greater school choice and improved standards. The report concluded that 'choice and competition does not seem to generally effective in raising standards.'
http://education.independent.co.uk/news/article342146.ece| 

1 February 2006

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