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New Series: Notes from a conference


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As summer (and conference season) is 'almost' behind us, I am pleased to announce a new series focused on exciting conferences (internal and external) attended by our research community! And which they think are worth sharing and talking about.

Over the next few months, these notes will be published to provide a useful summary/recap of conference. 

Here, Ian Piddington, Research Associate at SISER has kindly volunteered to share his notes from a recent conference he attended on intergenerational mobility. 

Happy reading (and writing)!

Olumide Adisa, PhD

Managing Editor, Suffolk Research Blog


Ian's Conference Notes

Intergenerational Mobility: Unequal Life chances across the life course, in Britain and beyond

May 23rd 2019. Central Hall, Westminster, SW1H9NH


  1. Dr Jo Blanden, University of Surrey    

‘The Effectiveness of Early Years’ investment in England’

References to; Nuffield Foundation, Sutton Trust, The

  • All evidence points to intervene early to reduce later and larger gaps
  • This evidence comes from significant, long term interventions in US that are with the most unequal
  • Evidence from programmes of universal support is mixed
  • Huge investment in UK early years intervention in 2000’s
  • Expansion of provision in private sector, not public
  • Free entitlement to part time education @ approx 2 billion a year (3-4 year old)
  • Much of this public spend would have been private spend anyway
  • Much of the hours of provision would have been taken up anyway
  • Impact on progress of children not seen
  • No real differential of progress made seen by study to date related to month of birth/ entry to free childcare
  • Impact may be on parental spend / more expendable parental income
  • Politicians reframing the reasoning behind increase to 30 hours in this way., including increasing opportunities for women to return to work (not seen significantly with 15 hours free provision)


  1. Professor Anna Vignoles, University of Cambridge (Crawford, MacMillan and Vignoles 2017)

‘Schools and Social Mobility: The role of schools in narrowing the achievement gap’

3 questions posed; Can schools increase social mobility?  Does the school matter? What can schools do?

  • Education is not the ‘great leveller’ as hoped. However, policy makers still like this idea. It still seems like the obvious point for society to fix things.
  •  Family background is the key determinant of educational achievement/ earnings/life outcomes
  • The school students go to only accounts for 10-20% of the variation in outcomes; schools matter at the margins
  • Able to look at N.I. with whole system 2 tier also. Similar patterns but not comparable
  • For some individuals, education is the route
  • The large gaps in attainment are seen clearly by socio economic background
  • These gaps widen as students go through school
  • Socio economics keeps impacting
  • Poorer parents do care about education and are making choices about schools
  • Good schools are rationed by geography/house prices
  • Data suggests that focus could be put on high performing disadvantaged students prior to GCSE
  • Change could occur in part with improving school allocation mechanisms (lottery)
  • Funding does matter in the recruitment retention of good teachers (current funding?)
  • Education Endowment Foundation – evidence to suggest impact of 1:1 in literacy/numeracy


  1. Professor John Jerrin, UCL Institute of Education

‘How do academically selective school systems affect pupil’s social and emotional competencies? New evidence from the Millenium Cohort Study.’

  • No difference on average in achievement outcomes between selective and comprehensive
  • Grammar school students do not achieve better outcomes than comparable non grammar students
  • Some evidence that the selective system increases educational inequality in GCSE and labour market outcomes
  • No evidence that either system affects social and emotional competency more than the other
  • Tentative proposal that the non-selective system does select within itself, eg. Settting, grouping and that comparable students are selected out of the ‘mainstream’ in most schools
  • Why do parents want grammar? Status, social setting for students, life chances.


  1. Professor Sandra McNally, University of Surrey and LSE

‘Do Apprenticeships Pay? Evidence for England.’

  • No real comparison between English and European Apprenticeships systems.
  • New apprenticeship content contains lots of assessment objectives
  • L2 English apprenticeships 1 year only
  • Some apprenticeships better to take than others re labour market outcomes
  • Male choices tend to have better labour market outcomes than female choices
  • Some L3 apprenticeships have parity of labour market outcomes with degree based learning
  • T levels are likely to make things more complicated


  1. Dr Gill Wyness, UCL Institute of Education

‘Inequalities in University Mis-Match'

  • Examining the Mis-Match of actual university course with student prior attainment
  • First UK study following from US studies
  • ‘Under-Match’ student with high grades and lower course requirements
  • ‘Over-Match’ student with lower grades and higher course requirements
  • Lower SES students undermatch to lower course requirements
  • Lower SES students undermatch to low earning potential courses
  • Female SES students undermatch more to low earning potential courses

Factors driving the gaps could be;

  • University choice
  • Subject choice (driver of earnings gap)
  • School factor (slighter difference)
  • System built on predicted grades – confidence, school experience


  1. Dr Matt Dickson, University of Bath

‘Degrees of difference; the impact of background on returns to higher education in the UK’

  • Prior attainment at GCSE and HE affects average income
  • 5 A* - C achievement has a greater effect on average income, 21-29 year old than HE attendance for comparable groups (what is the counterfactual?)
  • Male gaps bigger than female
  • STEM effect also shown

If you have any questions and would like to know more about the conference, please email Ian: I.Piddington@UOS.AC.UK

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