Journal Article


How does the choice of A-level subjects vary with students' socio-economic status in English state schools?

Abstract

The reasons why students from lower socio-economic groups are underrepresented at highly selective universities are not entirely understood, but evidence suggests that part of the gap may be a consequence of differential choice of A-levels by social background. The Russell Group of universities has since 2011 published guidance on subject choices, describing some A-levels as ‘facilitating’ in that their choice keeps the largest number of Russell Group degree courses open to potential applicants. This study uses National Pupil Database data from three recent cohorts of English state school students taking at least three A-levels, and a taxonomy of all 96 A-levels certified for English students in 2014/15. Large differentials in subject choice by social background are found, particularly for facilitating subjects but also for subjects considered ‘less suitable’ by Russell Group universities. Linear probability models show that these differentials substantially disappear when GCSE attainment and subject choices at age 14+ are taken into account. Closing the choice gap at A-level is likely therefore to depend on reducing differentials in attainment and subject choice by social background at GCSE. The introduction of the eBacc may help with the GCSE subject choice element.

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Authors

Dilnot, Catherine

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Business\Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics

Dates

Year of publication: 2016
Date of RADAR deposit: 2016-08-16


Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License


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