Sunday, August 11, 2019

School Enjoyment at Age 6 Predicts Later Educational Achievement as Strongly as Socioeconomic Background and Gender

Morris, Tim, Danny Dorling, Neil M. Davies, and George D. Smith. 2019. “School Enjoyment at Age 6 Predicts Later Educational Achievement as Strongly as Socioeconomic Background and Gender.” SocArXiv. August 10. doi:10.31235/

Abstract: Education is influenced by a broad range of factors including socioeconomic background, cognitive ability, and the school environment. However, there has been limited research into the role that school enjoyment, particularly at the start of schooling, plays in the development of pupil’s education and their final attainment. In this study we used data from a UK cohort, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to answer three related research questions. Is school enjoyment patterned by gender, socioeconomic background of cognitive ability? How well does school enjoyment explain later educational attainment? Does early school enjoyment at age 6 explain social or gender differences in later educational attainment at age 16? Our results show that school enjoyment measured at age 6 associates with gender and cognitive ability, but not with family socioeconomic background. For example, girls were over two and half times more likely to report enjoying school than boys (OR: 2.62; 95% Confidence Interval: 2.11, 3.24). School enjoyment and later attainment were also associated, whereby pupils who reported enjoying school at both ages scored on average 29.9 (20.2, 39.6) more points, equivalent to a 5-grade increase across all GCSE’s, and were 72% more likely to obtain 5+ A*-C GCSE’s including Maths and English (OR: 1.69; 95% CI: 1.38, 2.08) than those who did not enjoy school. Differences in school enjoyment helped to statistically explain the gender attainment gap, with boys’ GCSE attainment more strongly linked to school enjoyment than girls. These results highlight the importance of school enjoyment for educational attainment. As a potentially more modifiable factor than socioeconomic background, cognitive ability or gender, school enjoyment may represent a promising intervention target for reducing educational inequalities and future experimental designs are required to test causation.

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