Published November 1999
A review of research evidence suggests that low levels of educational attainment are crucial in generating and sustaining social exclusion. Test scores at school are the most effective predictor of many adult outcomes. School attendance and soft skills are also important. Reviewing the factors accounting for the variance in educational attainment, it is evident that combinations of social disadvantage powerfully affect school performance with up to 75% of school variation in 16 year old attainment at GCSE associated with pupil intake factors. But school factors can raise attainment by up to 14 GCSE points for average pupils. Hence schools are a good place to improve children's skills. Research suggests that higher per pupil spending, smaller class sizes and teacher quality in schools all seem to make a difference and some have most impact on disadvantaged pupils. However an approach which focuses solely on the improvement of average school performance is likely to be a less effective means of reducing social exclusion than an approach which creates incentives that rewards improvement among the least able. Other factors such as the behaviour and hiring decisions of employers also require attention if improved educational performance is to provide high pay offs.