Diversity of School Provision - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Francis Green, Professor of Economics, University of Kent


    —  Independent schools have transformed themselves since the 1960s to become academic powerhouses as well as providing a broad education. They unequivocally boost the academic qualifications of most pupils.

    —  To make this transformation independent schools have injected enormously increased resources. Their pupil-teacher ratio has fallen year-on-year, and is now little more than half what it is in the state sector.

    —  On average, those receiving a private education during the 1980s now gain between 16% and 19% higher pay than their counterparts with similar ability and family background. They also benefited from superior non-academic resources at schools (playing fields etc).

    —  The benefits of private education for today's pupils are expected to be higher because there is a greater demand for highly-educated people, and because the facilities and staffing ratios have been much improved.

    —  Retirements and school improvements have entailed demands for more teachers: approximately, a flow of 18,049 new full-time teachers have been recruited from outside the independent sector since 2000.

    —  The majority of this flow (58%) has been experienced teachers from state schools, the rest newly trained teachers and graduates. Compared to the overall numbers of newly qualified teachers, the transfers amount to approximately 7% of the state's investment.

    —  Since 1980 they have funded these changes by continually raising their fees; now nearly three times as high in real terms. Boarding: £22,059 per annum, Day fee: £9,579. These high fees limit access to the well-off except where sufficient bursaries can be made available; but the extent of their impact on social mobility is under-researched.



    —   9% of schools; 7½% of pupils; around 14% of teachers.

    —  Pupil-teacher ratio is 9.6, a little more than half what it is in the state sector ( 18).

    —  Much variation of quality and cost in the sector.



    —  Evidence that private school attendance substantially raises the highest qualification level achieved. Private schools also have higher value-added.

    —  A caveat: once at university, early 1990s private school-educated students do less well. They are 9 percentage points less likely than state-educated students with similar A-levels to get a good degree (at least upper second class honours).


    —  Private school students from the 1980s are now earning around 16% to 19% more, on average, than their state-school counterparts, after allowing for differences in family background and for cognitive and non-cognitive abilities at age 5.

    —  On average, all this premium can be accounted for by the better qualifications achieved.

    —  However, among the students who would later become more successful, going to a private school gave an extra premium, beyond what can be explained by the qualifications obtained. We think that this is because the more able students will have been selected for the better (more expensive) private schools, and will have gained more of the broad, non-academic advantages that these offer; but this is not yet proved.

    —  Since the 1980s the demand for highly-educated workers has risen, and the fees have nearly trebled. One can therefore tentatively forecast that today's private school pupils will benefit from a higher premium than those at school two or more decades ago.


    —  Large and increasing funds spent on non-academic equipment: swimming pools, playing fields, etc.

  Comment: the evidence is quite conclusive that independent schools do provide a substantial return for their money. Their consequent impact on social mobility, however, is questionable, given the high fees which must exclude low-income households unless they have access to bursaries; but this issue needs further research.


  In theory, independents schools can have either positive or negative effects on the maintained sector.

Positive benefits

    —  Competition and emulation could improve standards. Virtually no formal evidence about this, one way or the other.

    —  Sharing of facilities for public benefit. (It is for the Charities Commission to determine the extent of this).

Negative effects

  Competition for teaching staff intensifies with rising demands for teachers as the independent sector lowers its pupil-teacher ratio. The facts, computed from the ISC Census, are these:

    —  Since 2000 2,608 extra teachers have been added in ISC-member independent schools from outside that sector.

    —  Together with retirements, this has meant the need for ISC schools to recruit 18,049 full-time teachers from outside the independent sector.

    —  This has been achieved by recruiting (net, allowing for contra-flows) 10,508 (58%) experienced teachers from state-maintained schools, and 7,541 teachers (42%) from universities and initial teacher training colleges.

  In this sense, the state has "lost" since 2000 roughly 2,250 teachers per year, as they either opted out of maintained schools in the first place or subsequently transferred to the independent sector. Compared to the overall stock of teachers, these flows are relatively small. However, compared to the flow of newly qualified teachers (eg 33,190 in 2006) the transfers amount to about 7%. Of course, this "loss" is not an overall reduction of teachers available to society, since it is balanced by an increase in resources for independent schools. Rather, the level of the transfer is one indication of the state's support for the independent sector, partly offset by the fact that the state is relieved of the need to provide teachers for pupils who choose private education.

  Negative effects could also come from loss of peer effects from able pupils, but there is little or no formal evidence about how important this is.

Other evidence of Independent/State school teacher differences

  Microdata sources reveal that:

    —  Independent school teachers are more likely than state school teachers to possess a post-graduate qualification, and to be trained in a shortage subject (Maths, Science or Engineering).

    —  Teachers in independent schools express greater job satisfaction with the intrinsic features of their job, and generally experience preferable working conditions.

    —  Among men there are no very substantial differences in pay between independent and state school teachers; but women appear to experience a pay penalty for working in the independent sector.

    —  Teachers in shortage subjects receive a pay premium in the private schools, but not in the maintained schools.


  Research on this topic has been funded by a grant from the Nuffield Foundation to the University of Kent and the Centre for Economics of Education at the LSE. A brief summary and papers can be accessed from my web page at: http://www.kent.ac.uk/economics/staff/gfg/currres.html

May 2008

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