HC Deb 01 March 1984 vol 55 cc269-70W
Mr. Greenway

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the various possibilities for further research into the factors affecting standards in schools.

Sir Keith Joseph

In December 1983, the Department issued a statistical bulletin (16/83) setting out the results of a statistical analysis of factors affecting the examination results achieved by school pupils in different local education authority areas. This analysis indicated that variables representing the social composition of the resident population of the local education authority areas may be related statistically to between about two-thirds and three-quarters of the variation in examination results for the local education authorities concerned; variations in expenditure per pupil do not in general appear to be a significant factor. I have asked the Department to extend the analysis, using existing data, to examine the relationship betwen examination results by local education authority and a number of other factors, including the proportion of pupils in selective schools.

It seems likely, however, that further studies of this kind at the level of local authorities will provide only limited insight into the effect of such factors on examination results. This is partly because some of the additional factors concerned will bear some statistical relationship to the socio-economic factors which have already been analysed; and also partly because data for whole local authority areas do not allow for the wide variations between individual schools within local authority areas. In view of this, I have also asked the Department to carry out a pilot study for a sample of individual schools. The main purpose of the pilot study is to enable me to assess the potential value of further research at the level of individual school, or groups of schools. I shall be considering not only what is feasible in terms of the availability of suitable data but also the relevance of any research to the development of the Government's policies for improving standards in schools. I hope to be able to make a further statement in about six months' time.