ADR Wales researchers have begun ground breaking work looking at the relationship between socio-economic measures and pupil attainment, linking together for the first time 2011 Census data and education data for Wales.

Until now, researchers using administrative education data in Wales have used children’s free school meals status as a measure and proxy for socio-economic disadvantage. Free school meals are available for pupils whose parents or carers apply to the local authority based on certain criteria. Although there are some critiques of using free school meals status, it has been a go-to indicator that a pupil is from a home with a low income.

From September 2022, the Welsh Government will begin to open up free school meals, providing access to all primary school children regardless of background by 2024, in a move to tackle child poverty and ensure no child goes hungry. Without the use of free school meals as a reliable measure for socio-economic disadvantage, the research team is exploring data in the 2011 Census to see how other measures that capture family circumstances interact with educational attainment.

This work is building on previous research to ask questions such as: do free school meals and other measures perform in the same way to explain attainment? Do these relationships vary or persist across key stages? The team will use the 2011 and 2021 Census data to consider various longitudinal patterns in the education data, focusing on occupation, household composition, parental influence and more.