Saturday, September 04, 2010

Do School Lotteries Work?

I've been following the Brighton & Hove school lottery case for a while (see here) and, indeed, written about it in print (see here, subscription required).

It's interesting to see this BBC headline, suggesting that the lottery failed to achieve equal access for students from poorer backgrounds. On reading the accompanying piece, however, it seems that the basis for the story is as follows: "Research presented to the British Educational Research Association on Friday says the system does not give equal chances to all pupils because catchment areas are still the main determinants of access to particular schools."

In other words, the reason it failed is not because it's a lottery (though of course equal chances don't guarantee equal success) but because it wasn't a lottery. It's important to realize that restrictions on who can enter a lottery, for example, can go a long way to 'fixing' the outcomes and therefore cancel out the benefits.

For more on these issues, see the books by my friend Olly Dowlen and Conall Boyle's recent book specifically on school lotteries.

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