Do pupils from low-income families get low-quality teachers? Indirect evidence from English schools

Becky Allen, Sam Sims

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gaps between the educational attainment of pupils from higher and lower income families are widespread and persistent. Teacher quality is amongst the most important school-based determinants of pupil attainment, making the allocation of teachers to pupils a potentially important reason for this attainment gap. We use a range of well-evidenced indicators of teacher quality from the School Workforce Census and the Teaching and Learning International Survey to investigate the extent of social inequalities in access to teacher quality in England. Looking at the allocation of teachers between schools, we find that disadvantaged pupils are more likely to have unqualified, inexperienced or out-of-subject teachers. We present evidence that this reflects both demand from early-career teachers to work in such schools and a greater supply of vacant positions in these schools, due to poor staff retention. We find some evidence of an inequitable allocation of teacher quality to classes within schools, though this is limited to our teacher experience indicator. This is in part due to teachers with more experience at a specific school being better able to influence their allocation to less disadvantaged classes. Implications for policy are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-458
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2018

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Oxford Review of Education on 18/5/2018, available online:


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