Parents’ education has no effect upon exam results of brightest children

  The gender of school pupils and their parents’ educational level has no major effect on the performance of the most able 25% of those taking GCSEs, research says.

 The British Sociological Association’s annual conference in London was told today [Friday 8 April 2011] that researchers looked at the results of cognitive tests and questionnaires carried out by 11,720 Year 11 pupils at state and private schools before their GCSE examinations.

 Dr Judith Glaesser and Professor Barry Cooper, of Durham University, found that for the pupils who were in the top quarter in the cognitive tests, their parents’ educational level had no major effect on their attaining good GCSE results.

 Among this top quarter in the cognitive test scores, there was no major difference in their GCSE results between those with and without well-educated parents, and girls and boys did almost equally well, the researchers found. This was true both in academically selective and non-selective schools.

 The researchers found that parents’ educational achievements and the gender of the pupils did matter for those who had less good results in the cognitive ability test.

 For boys in state and non-selective private schools who were in the second highest quarter in their cognitive test results, having parents with O levels placed them 16 percentage points higher in terms of GCSE success than those whose parents did not. For girls the difference was only 8 percentage points – parental education made less difference for them.

 For less able pupils, the disadvantage of not having parents who could help them fully with homework or encourage them to study by example was more marked. This was especially true for boys.

 The researchers used data from Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, which conducts large scale educational monitoring for schools including gathering data on parental education levels. The researchers looked at the 2005 data for the cognitive tests and questionnaires, and at how these pupils then went on to perform in the 2005 GCSEs. 

 For more information, please contact:

 Tony Trueman

British Sociological Association

Tel: 07964 023392

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