The effect of schools on school leavers' university participation

This paper considers the role that schools have in determining whether school leavers participate in higher education or not. It examines the association between schools and university participation using a unique dataset of 3 cohorts of all young people leaving maintained schools in Wales. School “effects” are identified, even after controlling for individual-level factors, such as their prior attainment, socioeconomic circumstances, ethnicity, and special educational needs. Schools appear to have a particular “effect” on the likelihood that a young person enters an elite university. However, the findings suggest the concept of a school “effect” on higher education participation is not straightforward – schools appear to have different levels of effectiveness depending on the gender of the young people and the nature of their higher education participation. These findings are considered within the policy contexts of school effectiveness and widening access to higher education.

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