This paper examines the transitions from primary to secondary school for a contemporary cohort of children moving between state schools in England. It uses data on over 12 000 primary schools, over 2000 secondary schools and around 400 000 pupils. The results suggest that the experiences of poor pupils at age 11 may be quite different, on average, to their non-poor peers’. Poor pupils’ primary peer groups are more fractured at the age of 11 and these pupils tend to find themselves more concentrated within lower performing secondary schools. High ability pupils are more likely to go to the modal secondary school of their cohort if it is better than average; the reverse is true for low ability pupils. Poor pupils are less likely to go to the modal school when it is better than average but more likely to go when it is worse. Finally, we find that primary schools which have high academic test scores have more bifurcated flows: poor and non-poor pupils are dispersed across different secondary schools. This analysis of within-primary school differences in destination is one of the novel contributions of the paper.
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