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Methodological and Sociological Reflections on Pupil Segregation in England with Dr Sean Demack

Version 2 2024-03-13, 10:21
Version 1 2024-03-05, 14:59
posted on 2024-03-13, 10:21 authored by Anna MariguddiAnna Mariguddi, Sean Henry, Sean Demack

In 2015, Boylan et al. published the findings of an RCT-centred evaluation of a secondary maths programme funded by the DfE. Whilst the evaluation provided no evidence of impact (on improving maths attainment) for the programme, the multilevel analyses did uncover some striking structural patterns. A rare 3-level RCT design and analysis was adopted that acknowledged how pupils were clustered into classrooms which in turn were clustered into schools. The analyses revealed that the majority of pupil differences (or variance) in maths attainment were found at a structural level; between-schools and (predominantly) within-schools, between-classrooms. I have since reflected on the findings and implications of Boylan et al., (2015) in other projects and publications. First, in relation to evaluation research and design of RCTs that acknowledge the structural contexts of education and schools (Demack, 2019; Demack et al., 2022). Second, in relation to the sociology of education and the historical enthrallment with between- and within- school segregation of pupils in England (Demack, 2021 & 2023).

This paper highlights key findings from these publications and discusses their implications. Methodological reflections for RCT design are summarised alongside sociological reflections on educational equality of opportunity (in England). I begin with a visualisation of four statistical ‘extremes’ of pupil segregation before touching on key findings and implications. I end by returning to the visualisation to identify which of the statistical extremes best reflects the English education system.


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