Secondary education

We analyse all aspects of education economics at secondary level, ranging from the determinants of undertaking academic or vocational qualifications and the impact of qualification attainment on progression and labour market outcomes to school funding issues and the evaluation of national programmes. We have delivered in depth analyses to schools, mission groups and central government departments.

We have a substantial level of experience in the secondary phase of education. Our experience is varied and includes a range of projects including an assessment of differential funding rates (for the Sixth Form College Association), an evaluation of the Extended Schools Programme and the National Careers Service (for the Department for Education), as well as the impact of literacy, numeracy and ICT skills on labour market outcomes (for the OECD).

Research areas

We specialise in:


We assess the public funding associated with different stages of the secondary education cycle and how this varies depending on the nature of the educational establishment, as well as the age of the pupils taught.


Using a range of data sources (including the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) data), we quantitatively assess both the characteristics and outcomes associated with the acquisition of academic and vocational qualifications on progression and early labour market outcomes.


Using a range of administrative and secondary data, we implement quasi-experimental analyses to identify the impact of different education policies and programmes on school and pupil performance.


We undertake evaluations of teacher marketing campaigns to assess the extent to which these campaigns – and which components of the campaign – have impacted recruitment, as well as the cost effectiveness of different marketing channels.

For queries related to the above research areas, contact: Dr Gavan Conlon, +44 (0) 20 3701 7703, [email protected]

Case studies

Examples of our work include:

Understanding the funding shortfall in sixth form education

We analysed the funding shortfall in Sixth Form Colleges in terms of the resources available for the delivery of the 2016/17 curriculum compared to the funding that was available to deliver the 2010/11 curriculum; and the funding required to fund an internationally competitive curriculum. The results formed a key element of the Sixth Form Colleges Association’s Raise the Rate Campaign.

The impact of literacy, numeracy and computer skills on earnings and employment outcomes

Commissioned by the OECD LSO Network, we examined which incremental increases in numeracy, literacy and problem-solving skills have the largest impact on employment participation and related labour market outcomes and how this compares to incremental increases in educational attainment. Using an econometric model controlling for a range of personal and socioeconomic characteristics, results were obtained for each OECD country with available PIAAC Survey of Adult Skills data.

The earnings and employment returns to A levels

To better understand the earnings and employment returns to GCE A levels, we undertook an analysis of the British Cohort Study (BCS70) for a project commissioned by the Department for Education. The BCS70 is an exceptionally rich source of data, and in addition to containing information on earnings and labour market outcomes over time, there is also information on the number, subject areas and grades of A level attainment as well as other personal and socioeconomic information.

Estimating the impact of the Extended School programme on attainment

We undertook a quantitative evaluation of the Extended Schools initiative. This involved undertaking a propensity score matching model of schools participating in the initiative to identify ‘statistical neighbours’. We then identified the pupil level outcomes achieved by learners in the treatment and control using the NPD and mapped these findings using school identifiers to assess the extent to which outcomes achieved by pupils in Extended Schools exceeded outcomes achieved by pupils in comparison schools.