Britons would each be £6,000 better off if more children went to private school, says thinktank

According to a Right-leaning think tank reported in the Telegraph, Britons would each be nearly £6,000 better off if more children went to independent schools…

They offer the best value for the Government to improve exam results and pupils’ potential earnings, the Adam Smith Institute said.

The country as a whole would be wealthier if the proportion of children who went to schools outside local authority control matched that in other European countries. It compared Britain – where in 2010, 8 per cent of children went to a private school – with the Netherlands, where the state pays for about two thirds of children to attend a school that is outside state control.

It said that “the UK’s average annual growth rate between 1960 and 2007 would have been almost 1 percentage point higher had it matched the Netherlands’ long-term level of independent school enrolment since 1960.

“This in turn means that UK GDP per capita would have been over £5,800 higher in 2007 than it was.”

The study, by Gabriel Heller Sahlgren, showed how competition among Holland’s independent schools had developed higher international test scores, while driving costs down. It said that “improving students’ international test scores by 10 per cent raised a country’s average annual growth rate by 0.85 percentage points”.

The report recommended the expansion of access to private schooling in Britain, now seen as outside the reach of many middle-class families.

The increase in the number of independently run academies was also likely to increase Britain’s GDP, it suggested. Sam Bowman, the institute’s research director, said: “This report shows that we need greater access to private schooling for all pupils regardless of background.

“Not just to improve the welfare of the children themselves but to boost the UK’s overall standard of living and long-term economic growth.”

One recommendation was a “voucher” system to subsidise schooling. Families would be free to spend the lump sum of taxpayers’ money on any state or private school to create more of a free market…

More at: Britons would each be £6,000 better off if more children went to private school, says thinktank


You can read the report at: Incentive to Invest? How education affects economic growth


I’m not sure how this squares with the research published recently that actually showed – when other factors were taken into account – the increased earnings of those attending private schools was unlikely to cover the costs involved. What do you think? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter and take part in our poll…

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  1. Janet2

    Academies aren’t a magic bullet as we’ve seen from other stories recently: poor performance in some academy chains; non-academies doing as well as if not slightly better (especially on EBacc entries) than academies; non-academies less likely to use “equivalent” exams.  And that’s before we consider dodgy financial dealings.

    The OECD found in 2009 that although private schools in the UK outperformed state schools by a wide margin this was overturned when socio-economic background was taken into account.  UK state schools outperformed UK private schools.  The private school “advantage” depended on its intake.

  2. Careful selection of facts here.  In Finland, with the best results, all students go to state schools.
    Adam Smith will be turning in his grave hearing what is said in his name.  Most famous for his ‘Wealth of Nations’ book, his earlier work was ‘Theory of moral sentiments’.

  3. g56g

    edujdw it is so far fetched as a solution. More equality, not less is what is required! A good local school properly regulated is needed.

  4. Janet2

    I’m not a statistician but can spot a few holes in Sahlgren’s analysis.  He uses Trends in Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) results up to 2007 to calculate how Britain’s growth would be higher if UK “upper secondary” pupils had done as well as those in Taiwan and Netherlands.  BUT:

    1  TIMSS didn’t assess all UK pupils. Only England and Scotland took the 2007 tests.   So the results can’t be applied to all UK.
    2  Taiwan didn’t take part in TIMSS 2007 or 2011.
    3   Netherlands only took part in the tests for ten-year-olds in 2007 and 2011.

    It’s unclear, then, how Sahlgren can compare UK upper secondary pupils as a whole with Taiwan and Netherlands when (a) the whole of the UK didn’t take part in TIMSS, and (b) neither Taiwan or Netherlands entered 14 year-olds for TIMSS.

    Sahlgren also estimates the higher GDP per capita based on growth between 1960 and 2007.  During this time UK manufacturing has collapsed at the same time as Taiwanese manufacturing has grown.

    He then uses these stats to leap to the conclusion that more “choice” is needed.  But the OECD found an increase in school choice didn’t affect educational outcomes.

    TIMSS 2007 results can be downloaded here:

  5. Janet2

    Here’s another odd thing.  Sahlgren uses the 1995 TIMSS Advanced average Science and Maths for upper secondary as a proxy for educational “quality”.  Upper secondary was grades 7 and 8.  But TIMSS didn’t test these grades in 2007 or 2011 so we can’t judge whether countries’ performances has risen or fallen between 1995 and 2007 or 2011.

    England didn’t take part in TIMSS 1995 for grades 7 and 8.

    It’s unclear how Sahlgren can use TIMSS 1995 Advanced average Science and Maths or a “proxy” when England didn’t take part.

    See Fig 1 in Appendix B for participants in 1995 TIMSS:

  6. stwynn

    SchoolsImprove Doubt it would reduce tax or get me a refund. Redirected elsewhere probably – NHS could do with a hand.

  7. amirshah316

    SchoolsImprove sounds like an attempt to justify wholesale privatisation of the state sector. Never allow profiteers to decide education

  8. chrowen

    SchoolsImprove “Britons would each be £6000 better off”. Methinks fees for independent schools cost more than that?

  9. AllThingsMaths

    SchoolsImprove could we just have an all state sector, level the playing field, have a true comprehensive system, close the gaps?

  10. AllThingsMaths

    SchoolsImprove “we need greater access to private schooling for all pupils regardless of background” or just better schooling for all?

Let us know what you think...