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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Prof Christine Merrell

Tymms, P., Merrell, C. & Henderson, B. (1997). The First Year at School: A Quantitative Investigation of the Attainment and Progress of Pupils. Educational Research and Evaluation 3(2): 101-118.

Author(s) from Durham


In England children must start school after their fifth birthday, but it is common for children to start when they are four in what is known as the Reception class. The Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) project collected data on 1700 pupils’ early mathematics and pre/early reading levels at the start and end of their Reception year. The on‐entry assessment proved to be a good predictor of performance in reading and mathematics at the end of reception and the progress which each child made was estimated. This progress was found to vary considerably between schools and the variation was much greater than that typically found in school effectiveness studies. The data provided a unique opportunity to compare the progress of children who had, and had not, been to school. The Reception year was found to have had a major impact on the literacy and numeracy of children. Multi‐level models were employed for the analysis and from the models Effect Sizes were computed to assist in comparing the importance of variables in the study. This approach provides a mechanism for comparing the findings of school effectiveness studies with experimental studies and meta‐analyses.