Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280-299)|
7 MAY 2008
Q280 Chairman: I welcome Professor
Francis Green and Chris Parry to our proceedings. As you know,
we have been looking at diversity of school provision and we are
pleased that you are able to give evidence to the Committee this
morning. We have divided the sitting into two sections to try
to give a fair amount of time to both sets of witnesses. We
tend to drop the titles after the introduction, Professor Green,
and just go with first names. Is that all right? It is slightly
Professor Green: Yes.
Chairman: We usually give our witnesses
a chance to say a few words, as long as they do not take too long,
about their thoughts on the area that we are investigating.
Professor Green: Thank you for
this opportunity and invitation. To introduce myself, I am an
economist who specialises in labour economics and education economics.
A few years ago, when I was on a committee that was advising the
Department for Education, as it then was, on what kinds of research
it ought to be undertaking, I put my little hand up and said,
"How about doing a little bit of research on the independent
sector?" That was greeted with stony silence and never got
any further, but I am pleased to say that a few years later a
colleague at the London School of Economics and I persuaded the
Nuffield Foundation to give us a little bit of money to kick-start
some research on the independent sector. It was our view that
it was an extremely important sector in education but that it
had been pretty well neglected by independent researchers for
20 years and by economists for probably a lot longer than that.
That is where I am coming from. Our research lasted for about
a year, and what I will say today and any answers that I give
to questions are based partly on that research and on the research
of a few professional colleagues who have been looking at the
issue over the past five or six years, generally using large-scale,
nationally representative data. The general aim of the research
is to cut back from individual examples and political arguments
either way and try to look at independent schools from the position
of what is happening in the picture at large, using representative
survey data and aggregate data, which come out of the Independent
Schools Council. I know that you do not want me to go on for any
length of time. Briefly, it was our view that the independent
schools had really transformed themselves since the 1960s, a period
when they were comparatively under threat, to become academic
powerhouses. I need not give you the evidence for that. There
is now plenty of formal evidence that private schools unequivocally
boost the academic qualifications that pupils receive. They have
done that primarily through fantastically increased resources
since about 1980 and a pupil-teacher ratio that is now little
more than half what it is in the maintained sector. One half of
our research involved looking at the benefits that people received
in the labour market through having had an independent education
as opposed to a state-maintained education. Broadly speaking,
our estimates were that for people who had been at school in the
1980s, give or take a slightly broader range, there was a premium
of between 16% and 19% on pay. That is not an economic return
but a premium. Obviously, the figure does not take into account
the costs of the investment. That was the premium that they received
in the labour market. It does not include other things, to do
with consumption benefits and others. We do not know how the people
in the independent schools now will perform in the future. Obviously,
that is a matter of forecasting; but it is our opinion that it
is likely that the premium, if anything, will be larger than it
was for the people who were at school in the 1980s. Why do we
think that? Well, the two big things that have changed since the
1980s are, first of all, that there is a yet further increased
demand for highly educatedwell educatedpeople in
the labour market. We know that from many sources. Secondly, the
investment that parents and others have to make for children to
go to the independent school has increased immeasurably also,
since the 1980s, so both the outlay and the resources, and the
demand, have changed. We think that the premium, as it were, for
today's cohort of private school people will be substantially
greater than the figures I have just given you. That was really
addressing the benefit side; the other side, if I may take just
one minute more, that we looked at in our research, was to try
and kick-start some understanding about the different sides of
the teachers' labour market. There is one paper, which I believe
has been circulated to members of the Committee, in which we looked
at this. We looked at pay conditions and transfers between the
two sectors. One of the key issues we tried to put a few numbers
on was the issue of the transfer of teachers between the two sectors,
and how it is that the independent sector was, as it were, staffing
up. They needed to increase staff in order to increase the teacher-pupil
ratio over time, as well as replace retirements, and so on. The
figure that struck uswe were using the figures from the
Independent Schools Councilwas the number of people who
were moving from the maintained sector to the independent sector.
These figures are relatively small compared with the overall stock
of teachers in schools. There are 400,000 or 500,000I have
not got the exact numbers with me; the numbers moving over the
years are relatively small compared with that stock, but if you
look at them in relation to the number of teachers coming out
of our universities and teacher training colleges, they represent
about 7% of that flow, averaged over the last seven or eight years.
That was as it were the nearest we could get for the moment to
putting hard data, that you could find in the papers, on the statistical
flows between the two sectors. I am willing to take further questions
on that, but also conscious that I have probably used up my few
minutes now. We were circulated a list of potential questions,
and my expertise, which I am very happy to talk about, really
relates to the first two of those questions. I should probably
keep a bit quieter about some of the subsequent questions to do
with the running of independent schools. Those will have to be
passed to some of my colleagues.
Q281 Chairman: Thank you. Chris Parry,
you are rather new in your job. You have been there only a couple
of months, have you not?
Chris Parry: Seven days.
Chairman: Seven days?
Chris Parry: I know it is a long
time in the education sector.
Chairman: After a career organising the
defence capability of the country I am sure that you are well
able to grasp all the issues affecting independent education in
a few days.
Chris Parry: I will rely on your
judgment, I think. I, too, welcome the opportunity to give evidence
before the Committee. I am aware of the substantial practical
and educational experience around the table, and also the mix
of maintained school and independent school ex-pupils. I can say,
early in post, that I am really proud to represent a world-class
sector: 7% of the education community. It contributes substantially
to the UK's reputation for high quality education and schoolingand
I think there is a difference. The OECD places us at the top of
the league table for educational attainment. If you take out the
independent sector, it drops significantlyembarrassingly
so, in fact. Our strength in this sector is our independence.
It is the ability to tailor the requirements of pupils and the
ethos to the demands of both local and global forces. Any amount
of over-regulation hampers us in our ability to develop dynamically
in relation to trends. One of the areas where we have been very
successful in developing capability is with special educational
needs. We have a considerable programme of links with the maintained
sector and we will probably go into those later. Every school
in our area is involved,
and predominately there is an exchange of best practice in a two-way
flow, although perhaps not as much as we would want. There is
also a long history and good evidence of local community engagement,
going back, in some cases, over 400 years. What hampers us is
the perpetuation of attitudes and myths that seem to come out
of the cold war, if I can mix my sector metaphors. There is a
lot of ideology and there is still a sectarian divide between
the maintained sector and the independent sector. I would even
say there is a bit of prejudice and bullying from the maintained
sector, particularly in the teacher training colleges. We also
have some confusion over the interpretation of the Charities Act
2006 and perhaps we can discuss that, but all in all we are a
confident, vibrant sector. We hope to do more for the rest of
the education community. We want to learn more from the education
community in the United Kingdom. Only last week, we took on board
COBIS, the Council of British International Schools, and that
extends our influence, and the UK's influence, abroad by a great
measure, into over 40 countries. I think perhaps that is all you
need me to say before we get into the questions.
Q282 Chairman: Let us get into the
question session. First, may I ask both of you how much effect
the independent sector has on education generally in this country.
Does it provide an enormous guide to good ways of teaching and
how to bring the best out of pupils? What are the things that
we can learn from the independent sector in the state sector?
Professor Green: With respect,
there are three or four questions in there. How much effect does
the independent sector have on education generally? I think a
lot. Despite the small size of the sector in terms of pupil numbers7
or 7.5%it has enormous influence. That is partly through
the ways I was suggesting.
Q283 Chairman: Forgive me, Professor
Green, but many schools give evidence to the Committee and with
most of the people from the state sector who come here, you can
say, "How many free school meals pupils have you in your
school and how many special educational needs pupils?" and
there will be a balance, but if I have the high master of, say,
City of Birmingham Boys School, the answer will be "Not many"
in any of those categories, whether it be poor children, SEN children
or looked-after children. It is a very different world, so whatever
we can learn, it is a different universe, is it not?
Professor Green: I think that
is true of some schools. Inner-city, state-maintained schools
are a world away from one of the traditional so-called public
schools, but it should be remembered that the independent sector
is very diverse in itself, probably more diverse than the state
sector. There are great differences in the fees charged and in
the type of education offered. There are areas of the country
where there are quite a lot of similarities and substitutabilities
between the local schools and some of the private schools. My
own area is one example of that. In Canterbury, there are several
private schools as well as even more state schools, all concentrated
in one town, and I know lots of children through my own personal
contacts who are at the margins between going to one or the other.
To my mind, there are more possibilities for learning between
the two sectors than actually take place. There is quite a lot
of envy and jealousy and ideology between the two sectors, to
which Chris referred.
Q284 Chairman: That is not surprising,
is it? The Committee visited a school in Maidstonea more
challenged schoolthat had 100% free school meals, 65% SEN
pupils, and many looked-after children. It is down the road in
Maidstone amidst many schools that do not have those challenges.
It is not cold war, is it? It is a fact of life.
Professor Green: Yes, I know,
but there are things that could benefit the maintained schools.
If some of the fantastic science teachers they have in some of
the private schools were to go and teach in an inner city school,
they might have problems with discipline because they do not have
those particular sorts of people skills. They would have to be
honed in a well-ordered independent school, and then they could
go to a more challenging school. But not all schools are full
of ruffian boys and girls, are they?
Chairman: The school that I went to did
not have any ruffians, but it had poor children and children with
special educational needs.
Professor Green: Indeed, but my
point is that there will be a lot of scope for productive learning
and teaching if some of the good science teachers that we find
in the private schools were to make some of their time available
to some of the state schools. I know that there are difficulties,
and I know that different skills sets are involved in teaching
in private schools and state schoolsand it depends what
kind of state school it isbut there is some scope for that.
Q285 Chairman: I am the warm-up act;
we will drill down on those cases in a moment. Chris Parry, what
do you think can be learned from your sector by the state sector?
Chris Parry: I have been in both
state and maintained sectors. It is ancient history now, but my
experience in both indicates to me that it is the independence
and freedom from regulation and the ability to trust professionals
that lies at the heart of this. Typically, in the independent
sector we have more control over disciplinary regimes, we have
more variability over the curriculum, and governance is more independent.
That means that people can use their initiative, they can experiment,
and they can find out what works. Indeed, the Government recognise
that. Lord Adonis said that he wants to copy our DNAand
right at the heart of that helix is this independence and freedom
from regulation. Our only worry is that in taking our DNA he does
not genetically modify us.
Q286 Chairman: Putting Lord Adonis's
remarks to one side, is not one of the problems that it is a very
different world? As I said to Francis Green, we have a system
of league tables, but some people think that they are rather unfair.
Indeed, I see that Eton and other public schools will refuse to
co-operate with leagues tables in future. If you go to one of
the more exclusive schools, and most of public schools are exclusive,
there are quite high academic barriers to get in, and a high percentage
of children will come from very supportive middle-class families,
so it would be surprising if the results from that kind of entry
were not excellent. In a sense, you can see the resentment in
the state sector, in schools that represent the communities in
which they sit; in terms of free school meals, and their intake
of SEN and looked-after children, they are being unfairly compared
with some of the schools that you represent.
Chris Parry: Again, that is an
apt question. It represents the ideology that we are one community.
We have to see children as children, whether in the independent
or the maintained sector. The question that we have to ask ourselves
is why people choose to go to the independent sector. There are
a number of reasons. I detect that some people simply want a certain
type of education for their children. In many cases, it is not
an intellectual decision or even a practical decision; it is an
emotional one, and they are prepared and able to pay. Other people
simply cannot get provision in their local area in the state or
maintained sector. Where I come from, the maintained sector is
very poor. My wife and I have made sacrifices to send both our
children to the independent sector. Ideologically, some people
might choose to send them to the maintained sector. If I want,
emotionally, the best for my children, I have to pay for it. That
means that certain things have to go by the board to allow that.
There are hundreds and thousands of families like mine who have
chosen to make that commitment, both to their children's future
and to the future of this country, and at significant expense,
I might add.
Q287 Mr Stuart: Of course, 51% of
parents have said that they would send their children to an independent
school if they could afford it. I have a question for Professor
Green. Your research looks at the transfer of teachers and its
economic benefit. As you say in your paper, there is no loss to
society overall from the transfer of teachers from the state to
the independent sector, but have you examined what role this world-class
sector of teaching, which contributes so much to our highest universities,
plays in attracting high-quality teachers, people with high qualifications
and high motivation into the sector of teaching overall? It would
not happen if the independent sector was not there and so could
it be that the impact of the independent sector overall is to
enrich the whole of the teaching profession by offering diversity
as well as high standards?
Professor Green: I do not have
any numbers to give you on that, but there will be teachers who
go to work in independent schools who probably would not otherwise
have gone to work in the maintained sector. These will be the
people largely coming "from industry" and other jobs.
Q288 Mr Stuart: Could some of the
outstanding science and maths teachers you talked about never
have entered teaching at all if it were not for the independent
sector bringing them in? So could there be a net overall positive
Professor Green: I do not know
whether you regard this as positive, but there are fewer barriers
to going into teaching in the independent sector because you do
not have to be a professionally qualified teacher to teach there.
So there will be good science teachersI have some in my
family and I know about thiswho are not professionally
qualified teachers but are doing a good job of teaching science
in an independent school. I do not really think that that is a
policy option to say that we will start taking away the need to
have a professional qualification to teach in the state sector,
but that would be one example
Mr Stuart: Can I ask why not?
Chairman: Quickly, as David wants to
come in here.
Q289 Mr Stuart: I am interested to
know why not.
Professor Green: That is my naive
political wisdom, perhaps. You might be able to defend it. You
could say that someone with a PhD in science, provided they were
properly managed on the teaching side, could really enhance teaching
in state schools. Maybe we should think more imaginatively there.
Q290 Mr Chaytor: Can I pick up on
Chris Parry's point? If hundreds and thousands of parents are
making huge sacrifices to send their children to independent schools,
and if 51% would wish to send their children to an independent
school if they could afford it, is that not a powerful argument
in support of those who want to introduce a huge expansion in
the number of cut-price, cheap-rate independent schools? Does
that not completely endorse the Chris Woodhead or Civitas approach
to a new sector of more downmarket independent schools?
Chris Parry: The justification
for the transfer of DNA to any sort of provider who can give our
children a decent education and schooling and a future is entirely
justified. We have to do a very careful assessment of the cost,
not only in the short term but also in the long term. Once sunk
costs are put in, one must factor in the whole scope of a child's
education. Where we have seen real tragedies across both sectors
is where a child starts a form of education and then cannot complete
it for one reason or another. The investment has to be factored
in over 20 years. Strategicallydare I say itGovernment
Departments are not very good at acting in those time frames.
We know why: it is part of a political culture. To invest in the
future, we must have a strategic plan that covers both sectors
of the community and takes the best of both. To add to what Professor
Green has just said, we must remember that the independent sector
is 7% of the whole. If we took 7% of the maintained sector, we
would find excellence in that as well. There is a tremendous tendency
to do down the maintained sector. I visit a mix of schools both
in the independent and maintained sector, and excellence has a
virtue all of its own across the whole community. We should be
aiming for that, and taking the best of them both. Some fairly
unfavourable and unbalanced comparisons can be made. The 93% sector
is as diverse in some ways as the 7% that represents the independent
sector, and what brings best practice togetherinnovationand
gives it to our children in my view and if it works, we put it
Q291 Mr Chaytor: Yes, but if there
are 1,200 or so schools within the ISC at present, and if your
argument is that a significant number of parents are already making
sacrifices and a significant other number would like to pay for
their children to go to a private school if they could, surely
the logic is to double the number of private schools. Would the
ISC welcome another 1,200 private schools, the fees of which were
more affordable to parents? That is my point.
Chris Parry: In a modern market,
if we want excellence we have to pay for it. There is a small
pool of excellent teachers. A small pool of apt pupils can maintain
those levels. The Academies and trust schools programme is entirely
compatible with the independence and the lack of regulation that
I have been proposing. Many initiatives in recent years are entirely
consistent. It goes back to the tradition of all good schools
that delegation of responsibility for teaching and a light load
of regulation leads to what you are seeking. We will then see
if the costs come down.
Q292 Mr Chaytor: Is not the logic
of your argument about the pent-up demand of parents that we need
more independent schools and that the fee levels should be lower
than the average fee level of the ISC schools? Is that not the
absolute corollary of your argument?
Chris Parry: Some of the schools
have depressed, in the sense that they have put down levels of
Mr Chaytor: Things have been going up
6% per year since 2000.
Chris Parry: Yes, but compared
with the real rate of inflation in all sectors, that is actually
fairly comparable. Against headline inflation rates, of course,
it looks silly, but we all know that we can perm those in many
Q293 Mr Chaytor: Do we need another
1,200 independent schools, with average fees of £6,000 a
Chris Parry: If that can be achieved.
We have to look at the price of pensions, the facilities and the
price of regulation. Those things are going up all the time. Every
service industry is being hit by high rates of inflation, such
as increased fuel bills and food. If we can achieve it at such
levels, of course we should welcome 1,200 extra schools. We must
also look at the comparative price of a maintained place because
that will go up all the time. Currently, the Department for Children,
Schools and Families says that it is about £5,400 a year.
That compares pretty favourably with some of the lower levels
of the independent schools anyway. There are more ways in which
to calculate it, but again unless we do it for the long term,
we shall be saddled with quite a programme, if we are not careful.
Q294 Mr Chaytor: Coming back to the
performance of the current independent sector, to what do you
attribute the high level of performance? Is it a question of ownership?
Is it a question of the market mechanism? Is it the fact that
a parent is writing a cheque for the child's education, and the
school knows that it is subject to pressure from the consumer?
Or is it intake? You have talked about freedom from regulation,
and I should like to know exactly what regulations you consider
to be particularly burdensome. I am interested in the extent to
which you attribute the superior performance to ownership, intake,
market mechanism or absence of state regulation.
Chris Parry: As you well know,
it is an area of myth for most people. Let us talk first about
intake. You will find that the independent sector is open to a
wide diversity of abilities, age rangesobviouslyand
income levels. The detail of that is quite clear. I think that
there is a distinctive ethos in the independent sector based on
excellence. Second best is not good enough among teachers. I think
that the amount of pastoral and wider education engagement is
greater and I think that they see more of their teachers. In the
independent sector, more teachers are prepared to get involved
in extra curricula and pastoral activities than in the state sector.
If I am really honest, I think that the disaggregated nature of
the independent sector means that there is strong leadership at
local level among teachers, heads of departments and others. The
bottom line is that parents pay for the education, as you say.
Q295 Chairman: Sorry, but I said
this to your annual conference a couple of years ago: one of the
things that offends people outside the independent sector, more
than anything, is what you have just said. I see that your head
of research, Pru Jones, said it when she talked about paid-for
education. That really upsets a lot of peopletaxpayers
in this country who do pay for their education. It is paid for
through taxation. Many parents who send their children into the
state sector find it quite offensive when those in the independent
sector regularly talk about paid-for education.
Chris Parry: May I say that I
find it very offensive that I cannot find provision in the maintained
sector for my children? I pay my taxes, which pays for two places
in the state sector, and yet I pay out of my taxed income a significant
amount of money to ensure that my children are educated.
Chairman: My point is that it is all
paid for. Do not try to fudge it by saying that you did not have
the choice. It is all paid for; it is paid for through taxation.
If you decide to go into independent education and pay separately,
that is different. I am trying to make the point that it is offensive
to many people to disregard what people pay through taxation.
Q296 Mr Chaytor: What I am trying
to get at is like for like. If we could compare two schoolsone
independent, one within the state sectorwith identical
intakes, would there be a higher level of achievement in the independent
school, and if so, what would it be attributable to?
Professor Green: I think that
I can answer that. My research suggests clearly that it is the
extra resources. Not only my research points to that: a major
study was carried out by Oxford University using schools within
the independent sector, showing that schools that spent more got
more out of the children. The high levels of academic qualifications
achievedthey really are achievedby the private sector
can, in my view, be attributed mainly to the extra resources and
the fact that they have nearly half the pupil-teacher ratio and
much greater physical investment in plant and equipment. That
Q297 Mr Chaytor: In terms of public
policy, is the most logical conclusion that to get higher levels
of achievement across the board, it would be more effective to
increase the investment per pupil in the state sector to the level
of independent schools, to make all schools independent, or to
introduce a voucher system? From your experience, which of those
three options would be most likely to raise achievement?
Professor Green: I cannot give
you a researched, informed answer. My preference would be to put
more resources in the state maintained sector so that people such
as Chris would not necessarily have to make the decision on behalf
of their children. I made a different decision on behalf of my
children, and I was very happy with it. We find lots of different
experiences in that respect. For the past seven or eight years,
I have been a governor of a local state-maintained school. In
my time as a governor, I have to say that although regulations
come down from the local authority, the number of times that they
appear to constrain what we can do as governors, or what my head
teacher can do in his school, is very smallthat problem
is not on the horizon; it is not part of the way of thinking.
My head teacher is able to be very innovative. He has introduced
an international baccalaureatenobody is stopping him doing
thathe has control over the curriculum, and he has changed
a number of things. Perhaps there are more difficulties when it
comes to dismissing teachers, and that might be a difference between
the public and state sectors. He may have to be more careful in
the dismissal of teachers, but I do not know. I take a different
view from Chris Parry about the tremendous effects of the differences
Q298 Mr Chaytor: If the funding in
state and independent schools was identical, and therefore presumably
the pupil to teacher ratio was identical, what would be the advantage
of an independent school from your point of view?
Chris Parry: All things being
equal, which we have never had? I do not have the evidence to
make an intelligent comment about that.
Q299 Mr Carswell: You spoke very
movingly about the financial sacrifices that some parents make
to buy the best education that they can for their children. To
put it bluntly, is that sacrificethat financial burdengreater
than it should be because of price fixing in the independent sector?
Chris Parry: Last year it was
proved beyond doubt, through the Office of Fair Trading inquiry
and the subsequent work associated with it, that price fixing
does not take place. There was a certain amount of exchanging
information at the time, but there was no conclusive proof of
price fixing. The law of the market applies in the independent
sector; parents would not buy into education in certain schools
if they were hopelessly priced or controlled by cartels.
1 Note from witness: Almost every school-ISC
cannot be 100% sure that every single school is involved in this
Note from witness: The percentage of pupils with SEN at
independent schools is between 1-2%, the same as in the maintained