Social inequalities in UK educational outcomes continue to persist despite improvements in recent years. However, studies that examine these inequalities fail to account for differences in prior cognitive ability. We seek to determine the influence of cognitive ability on educational outcomes and the extent of socio-economic disparities in education across a wide range of indicators while accounting for cognitive ability. Social inequalities exist whereby children from disadvantaged backgrounds systematically underperform compared to their advantaged peers regardless of cognitive ability; high ability children from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately less likely to attain good grades compared to children from advantaged backgrounds. In addition, school effects operate to add to this inequality as children in fee-paying secondary schools outperform their state secondary school counterparts regardless of ability. Future UK policies should focus on reducing social inequality in education to ensure that all children are offered the same life chances regardless of background.
- social inequality
- cognitive ability