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School achievements of ethnic minorities

Press release issued: 8 June 2006

All minority ethnic groups in the UK make greater progress on average than white pupils over the course of their secondary schooling, according to new research by the CMPO.

Work published by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) at the University of Bristol:


All minority ethnic groups in the UK make greater progress on average than white pupils over the course of their secondary schooling. That is the central conclusion of new research by Dr Deborah Wilson and colleagues in the new issue of Research in Public Policy from the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO).  What’s more, a key part of the relative progress of minority ethnic groups comes just ahead of GCSEs, the most important, high-stakes exams.

The fact that there are substantial differences in the educational attainments of minority ethnic groups in England is nothing new. This research evidence supports the kind of findings in most previous studies: in the GCSE exams taken at age 16, pupils from some minority ethnic groups – notably Black Caribbean and Pakistani – achieve considerably lower on average than white pupils; while, in contrast, pupils of Indian or Chinese origin score much higher than their white peers.

But there are also three surprising new findings. First, when taking account of a small number of personal characteristics, all minority ethnic groups make greater progress on average than white pupils between the ages of 11 and 16. Second, much of this improvement is between the ages of 14 and 16, that is, in the run-up to GCSEs. Third, for most minority ethnic groups, this gain relative to white pupils is pervasive, happening in almost all secondary schools.


Public service reform is essential, and while performance management and ‘voice’ have a role, the long-term answer lies in real choice for users and increased competition among providers.

Former Downing Street adviser Julian Le Grand (Richard Titmuss Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics) notes that the central problem with old-style public services in the UK was monopoly, which meant that there were no incentives for providers to improve.

He concludes that properly designed reforms involving choice and competition are the ‘least worst’ way of achieving high quality, responsive and equitable public services.


Recent health care reforms are paving the way for greater competition between providers of health care, both within and outside the NHS – which the government believes will promote greater responsiveness of hospitals to patients’ needs, cut waiting lists and reduce equity in the receipt of health care.

But as Professor Carol Propper points out, the evidence to support these claims is by no means unequivocal. ‘The devil is in the detail’, she argues: the impact of competition in health care markets depends on the precise nature of the policies introduced and the interaction between them.

In particular, it is vital that the government pursues a pro-competitive regulatory strategy if it is to reap the benefits of competition. Such regulation requires both an understanding of the market for health care and of the economics of markets. And it needs to address potential anti-competitive behaviour by providers.


Over the past decade or so, a series of high-profile reports have looked at the governance of the UK’s leading companies. New research by Paul Gregg, Sarah Jewell and Ian Tonks has assessed the impact of these reports on the relationship between executive compensation and corporate performance.

The study finds that as measured by pay, executive compensation has increased substantially since1994 without much relationship to corporate performance. But taking account of board shareholdings shows that the relationship between executive compensation and company performance is much stronger.

Also in the summer issue of Research in Public Policy:


Public sector employees are markedly more educated than their private sector counterparts. And ‘low-employability’ individuals face large potential lifetime premiums from public sector employment. These are among the conclusions of new research by Fabien Postel-Vinay and Hélène Turon.

Their study investigates whether public sector workers are better paid than their private sector counterparts. Simple income measures suggest the answer is a clear yes. But these researchers argue that assessing the ‘public premium’ should take account of worker quality and the lifetime value of employment in each sector.


Government plans to increase school choice for parents and pupils have led to a heated debate. CMPO research by Professor Simon Burgess and colleagues sheds light on the central issues, demonstrating what’s wrong with our current education system and how we can ensure that reform delivers its promised benefits.

The evidence suggests that children from poorer families are not getting a good deal from the English school system. What’s more, our current system of partial, unequal choice is a long way from a cosy world where most children attend their local school. And neighbourhood schooling (favoured by many on the left) scores poorly against a progressive agenda of reducing the role of family income in determining the quality of school a child attends.


Does the introduction of NHS Direct result in better value for money in the delivery of health care? Does the use of new learning technologies in schools improve the quality of teaching that each teacher can deliver?

Being able to answer these kinds of questions relies on measuring public sector productivity – or the efficiency with which public services are delivered. In the light of the recent Atkinson Review, Helen Simpson discusses the challenges of developing robust productivity measures for public services.


In what circumstances is it best for governments to organise the provision of public services by contracting out to the private sector? Research by John Bennett and Elisabetta Iossa looks at the Private Finance Initiative, now widely used as a way of building and managing public infrastructure in the UK.

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