An Economic Appraisal on Efficiency, Institutional Restructuring and Reform in English State Primary Schools

Margaret Antony

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

141 Downloads (Pure)


This thesis is an economic appraisal on the primary education sector of England. The research is undertaken on all state primary schools in the country for the period 2002 – 2014. The period is noteworthy with regard to observed trends in primary education spending as well as for major policy reform associated with the Academies Act 2010. The study provides economic insights on educational attainment at the school level in these two different contexts.
First, the aspect of efficiency in resource utilisation is examined against the backdrop of the economic recession with imminent and actual cuts on education spending – the second largest area of public spending. An econometric estimation of the production frontier, defined by the most efficient schools, is undertaken using data on school inputs and test-score output for the period 2002 – 2010. The empirical evidence suggests considerable scope for improving efficiency in state schooling in England. Mean-efficiency levels vary between 0.5 and 0.95 on both inter-school and intra-school variations in pupil attainment and progress. Schools are seen to be capitalising on pupils with higher learning aptitude, with prior attainment being the single most dominant factor that has a positive effect on efficiency based on test-score measures. The frontier schools are evidently more judicious in the employment of school resources in maximising the educational output. In terms of school finance, the ‘best-practice’ schools are able to translate every percentage increase in per pupil real expenditure in to a 0.1 percent rise in english and maths test results, unlike the average school.
The latter part of the thesis is a policy evaluation on the Academies Act 2010. The 2010 Act heralded the ongoing academisation process of English primary schools, whereby schools converting to academy status gained autonomy from local education authority control. As a contextual prelude to the empirical research, a chapter of the thesis documents the changes brought about by the 2010 reform and examines its policy implications. The causal effects of institutional restructuring on academic achievement and school composition is then examined through a comparative analysis of academy schools vis-à-vis maintained schools. The school level analysis over the years 2002 – 2014, adopts the standard difference-in-differences model for a time (period) and yearly event estimation of the academy effect in this sector. The average test performance of pupils in academy schools is observed to have increased by almost a unit, in the post-academisation years, for standardised tests in english reading and maths, over that of maintained schools. The estimates indicate intake quality enhancing changes in academy schools in the post-reform period relative to maintained schools, which is accompanied by increasing pupil numbers in these schools.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Chevalier, Arnaud, Supervisor
  • Seltzer, Andrew, Supervisor
Award date1 Dec 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 2021


  • Education Economics, Efficiency, Education Policy, Academisation, Primary Schools, Academy Reform

Cite this