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School of Economics and Finance

No. 919: Parents know better: primary school choice and student achievement in London

Marco Ovidi , Queen Mary University of London

January 6, 2021

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Expanding parental choice in education may increase system-wide productivity if parents select schools that form a specifically good match with their children. I investigate the effect of attending a preferred school on student achievement in London primary schools. I exploit as good as random variation in admission to preferred schools arising from centralised assignment which awards school offer based on admission priority, residential distance, and parental preference. I compare students around year-specific catchment boundaries that cannot be exactly anticipated by parents. I find that attending the school of choice increases student achievement compared to an institution with lower parental preference but same value-added. Results suggest that parents select schools that are specifically effective in increasing their children’s achievement, improving the efficiency of school seats allocation. I show that parents of low-ability males select schools with lower peer quality and these likely better suit their learning needs.

J.E.L classification codes: H75, I21, I24, I28

Keywords:School choice, School effectiveness, Centralised assignment, Deferred acceptance