Labour markets and trajectories of schools performance in england
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Labour Markets and Trajectories of Schools Performance in England. Ruth Lupton Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion London School of Economics. The data. State secondary schools : c3200 Construct trajectories for all schools present 1996 - 2009 even if:

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Labour Markets and Trajectories of Schools Performance in England

Ruth Lupton

Centre for Analysis of Social ExclusionLondon School of Economics

The data

  • State secondary schools : c3200

  • Construct trajectories for all schools present 1996 -2009 even if:

    • Closed and re-opened as new school/Academy

    • Moved to new buildings

    • Acquired specialism, changed gender etc

  • At this stage using single measure: 5 A*-C GCSE

    • Only measure consistently collected

  • More to be done with other measures over shorter periods, also rolls, SEN, history of school closures, and private schools

  • Matching to labour market data (TTWA)

    • 1971-1991 trends (with difficulty)

    • 2000s JSA claimant count – others to follow

  • Later also to neighbourhood characteristics

The context

  • Broad policy consensus (since late 1970s?) on labour market/education/equalities:

    • Competitive position in global knowledge economies requires high skills and knowledge: search whole pool to identify talent

    • Jobs and labour are increasingly mobile

    • Knowledge economies can give rise to increasingly unequal labour markets and to exclusion. Social mobility in this situation requires more and better jobs AND equal access. So do social cohesion and inclusion.

  • And the sociology of individualisation: learners create individual biographies through choices drawing on a wide range of global influences

Policy response

  • Focus on academic outcomes (in the absolute) rather than engagement or progress

  • Focus on ‘closing the gap’ although no consensus on what an acceptable gap could be or importance of gap relative to absolute levels

  • Individual school-based approach to raising standards:

    • Strong accountability regime

    • Re-provisioning in areas of ‘failure’ (threshold approach)

    • Marketisation to enhance competition

    • Generic school improvement measures

    • Some redistribution to schools poorer areas

    • Wider range of equivalent (vocational qualifications)

  • Social and economic influences addressed through early years provision, extended schools

  • More recently, focus on raising aspirations and on parenting. Getting people to exercise their agency for maximum individual benefit


  • The goal is wrong: justice is about recognition as well as redistribution and/or recognition is a means to an end

  • Still more to do in contextualising school improvement strategies to recognise different circumstances

  • Marketisation leads to worse outcomes for the worst off

  • Patterning of attainment suggests strong structural forces remain influential.

    • Is it just a matter of time before people get the message?

    • Is it poverty that holds people back?

    • Do labour market realities look different to the people at the bottom?

  • Class cultural inheritances a) persist and b) have value

GCSE points by Decile Group of Neighbourhood Deprivation

Source: National Equality Panel

Distribution of school performance 1996-2009

Median School Performance by 1996 Quintile Group (schools)

Median School Perfomanceby 1996 Quintile Group (TTWAs)

School trajectories are uneven:Number of ‘Ups’ 1996-2009

Bumpy trajectories at the bottom

Bottom Decile Group

Top Decile Group

Big jumps

Labour market links weaken

  • In 1996 half of the lowest performing fifth of schools in just 10 TTWAs

  • In 2009, spread across 24 TTWAs

  • No particular relationship to labour market characteristics (1991) or trends in 2000s

So can all schools do it?Agency not structure

  • What is it?

    • Implausible that rapid year-on-year leaps are really about school quality

  • In any case

    • There are within labour market factors that structure performance – school markets, demographics, institutional contexts

    • Schools are in some cases in symbiotic relationship

A tale of two schools

Attainment 5 A-C



  • Labour market influences need to be understood at individual rather than school level

    • Need for a fresh debate about what constitutes success (supported by longitudinal research)

  • Abandon a threshold approach to school improvement and re-provisioning

  • Less focus on individual schools – more on areas as a whole (not necessarily local authorities)

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