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Paying for a private sixth form education: how much difference does it make?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 November 2019

Francis Green and Morag Henderson.

Britain’s private schools have again entered the public eye, with increasing concern over social mobility and social justice. There have been pressures for reform from several quarters. The most extreme was a September call for their ‘abolition’ from the annual conference of Labour, Britain’s main opposition party.

But whether one’s preference is for abolition, radical reform or no reform at all, confusion continues over what private schools actually do.

The question is: does private schooling in Britain actually improve children’s academic performance, beyond what would happen if they attended state schools, once account is taken of the characteristics of the children who attend them?

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How much does private schooling raise your pay, and does it make you give more to the community?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 November 2019

Francis Green

Private schools find themselves in the news lately, more than they usually are. Boris Johnson became the fifth Old Etonian prime minister since the war, and immediately appointed a cabinet in which nearly two-thirds were privately educated, re-affirming once again what the Sutton Trust and the government’s Social Mobility Commission have been revealing about the political influence of the privately educated. At the same time, for the first time in many decades the possibility of radical private school reform has entered the political agenda. 

Formal evidence on what private schools do can help people evaluate views about Britain’s private school system and whether there is a need for reform. There are two important findings from our latest research which looks at a cohort born in 1990 and (more…)

Getting the science straight: the schools minister’s suggestion that private schools convey little academic advantage does not stand up to scrutiny

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 July 2019

Francis Green

A recent report from the Sutton Trust reveals that positions of public influence are still disproportionately cornered by the privately educated, with little progress since their previous report. So the Johnson – Hunt (Eton – Charterhouse) contest to be prime minister is but the tip of an iceberg. It is curious, then, to find Schools Minister Nick Gibb and genetic psychologist Robert Plomin seemingly agreeing on an ungrounded assertion: that there is little difference in the academic outcomes of state and private schooling in Britain, and that private is assuredly not worth the money.

The science is not on their side.

Professor Plomin asserts that: “Even though schools have little effect on individual differences in school achievement, some parents will still decide to pay huge (more…)

Why Britain's private schools are such a social problem

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 February 2019

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shutterstock

Francis Green. 
Private schools tend to be richly resourced and expensive, so those children lucky enough to attend them normally receive a good education, with academic advantages enhanced by a range of extra-curricular activities. But while this might be great for private pupils these schools pose a serious problem for Britain’s education system and society.
Britain’s private schools are very socially exclusive and there is no sign that attempts to mitigate this exclusivity through means-tested bursaries are working. The scale of bursaries is far too small to make a difference – just 1% of children go for free.
The exclusivity stems from the enormous price tag of private schooling. Fees average £17,200 a year per child, and are much higher for boarding schools. Some question (more…)

Are private schools better managed than state schools?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 February 2018

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…)

Why do privately educated people in Britain earn more?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital30 May 2017

Francis Green
Private schooling in Britain is unaffordable for the majority of families, but for those that can afford it what do their children get out of paying for education? There are some who say, not much, and that it all depends on family background, but most of the evidence finds that this is not true: private school pupils achieve better GCSEs and A-levels (England’s school-leaving exams) – on average – even when we allow for their background. The crucial point for those interested in social mobility, however, is that later in life it is those that have been to private school who are found – again on average – to get on especially well in the labour market and in (more…)

If we care about democracy private schools should be an election issue

Blog Editor, IOE Digital14 April 2015

John White
The election campaign has all but ignored private education. This is odd, since it raises an issue central to the country’s future. I am not talking about equality of opportunity – about the complaint that, unlike the rest of us, Harrovians and others enjoy their tiny classes and nine-hole golf course en route to Trinity College Cambridge and life as a High Court judge. (more…)