Alex Bryson and Francis Green.
In recent years governments of all hues have urged private schools to sponsor state schools to help raise education standards. In 2012 Lord Adonis, who had earlier been Labour’s Minister for Schools, argued that successful private schools, whose “DNA” incorporated “independence, excellence, innovation, social mission”, should sponsor state academy schools. Subsequent Coalition and Conservative governments have adopted the same policy with the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto aiming for at least 100 independent schools to sponsor an academy or start a free school.
The policy is not evidence-based. Instead it has been assumed that private schools’ successes are founded on superior management. There is no doubt that, even allowing for the normally affluent social background of private school pupils, these children on average perform well in exams, compared to their state-educated peers. Private schools also deliver a broad curriculum and provide a full sporting and cultural education beyond the classroom. How do they do that? Most obviously, because they deploy hugely greater resources, and because the schools are able, through their pupil selection, to concentrate on a generally aspirational peer group. But neither of these advantages are supposed to be part of the sponsorship policy.
Rather, governments have presumed that private schools might convey the desired ethos of aspiration and excellence through improvements in management practices. In forthcoming research to be published next week in the National Institute Economic Review, we present findings from the first large-scale study to test the proposition that (more…)