Private school pupils ‘receive equivalent of two years’ extra education’

The Independent is reporting research that suggests children who attend private schools benefit from the equivalent of two years’ extra education by the time they are 16. 

Academics from Durham University analysed differences in attainment between state and private school pupils, taking their prior attainment, family background and gender into account.

Private pupils were ahead of their state school counterparts at ages four, eight, 10 and 16, the study found.

The research, commissioned by the Independent Schools Council, found that private schooling boosts teenagers’ GCSEs by almost two-thirds of a grade per subject. 

The biggest differences at GCSE were found in French, history and geography. The smallest gaps were in chemistry, physics and biology. The difference of 0.64 GCSE grades equates to a gain of about two years’ normal progress, the researchers claim.

Researchers concluded that if private schools were measured on Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) outcomes they would outperform the best European countries and be level with Japan and South Korea…

More at: Private school pupils ‘receive equivalent of two years’ extra education’


Read or download the report in full:

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The researchers suggest that, even accounting as best they can for prior ability and socio-economic factors, similar students achieve more in independent schools that state schools.

There’s surely no real surprise there – not least because of the extra resources available (and the research was commissioned by the Independent Schools Council) but are you taken back by the apparent scale of the differences claimed?

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Categories: Private Schools and Research.


  1. JennyCampbellKl

    My two children attended private school from Kindergarten to secondary stage and, thereafter, state school.  Although the state school is particularly good, I noticed that the private school was indeed 2 years ahead.

  2. TW

    JennyCampbellKl  You noticed?  That’s it then.

    Strangely enough, some people assume private education is better until they experience it and then rapidly transfer their offspring to a normal school to actually get some education.

  3. No doubt the Independent Schools Council will milk this report for all it’s worth (see  But it’s worth noting the report’s writers have said their conclusions should be used with ‘caution’ (no chance) and wrote:

    ‘It is possible that
    this is an overestimate of any genuine causal effect of attending an Independent school because of
    unobserved factors that would have affected the estimate.’

    Note: ‘overestimate of any genuine causal effect’.

    Funny, then, that when these independently educated pupils graduate from university they’re outperformed by their similarly qualified peers from state comprehensives.   And at Oxbridge there’s no difference between degree quality of those educated privately and those educated in the state sector.

  4. MrBlachford SchoolsImprove Not really – note my comment above about using the results with ‘caution’ and the researchers’ acknowledgement of ‘overestimated causal effect’.

  5. From the report (page 6): 
    ‘…the jury is still out with regard to the true extent to
    which attendance at independent schools in England enhance the academic achievements of students
    when student and school-level differences are accounted for.’
    Funny, this wasn’t mentioned in the ISC press release (linked in my comment below).
    And for all the researchers’ trawling through past reports and crunching numbers, they missed one finding from the OECD after the PISA results from 2009: when socio-economic background is accounted for UK state schools (called ‘public’ schools in OECD jargon) outperform UK private schools on the reading scale by 20 score points, well above the OECD average of 7 score points in favour of public schools. (page 13)

  6. Jon5767

    It is far from clear whether they have allowed statistically for selection at entry.  Private schools do not have to take every child (in practice);  state schools do. That must affect the average.

    Does their conclusion suggest that a 14 year old at a private school will do as well as a 16 year old elsewhere?

  7. Jon5767 The researchers warned their estimations could be affected by factors not taken into account during their analysis.  This increased the possibility of overstating the effects of private schooling:
    ‘It is possible that this is an overestimate of any genuine causal effect of attending an Independent school because of unobserved factors that would have affected the estimate.’

  8. LiterateCynic

    andylutwyche Tories will only cut, expecting more for less, whilst Labour will throw money but in quite the wrong direction SchoolsImprove

  9. LiterateCynic

    andylutwyche Whatever one’s politics, education deserves to be freed from political interference. Far, far too important.. SchoolsImprove

  10. andylutwyche

    LiterateCynic SchoolsImprove You’d have thought but as long as education is considered a vote winner it will remain under idiot control

  11. LiterateCynic

    andylutwyche Maybe a future govt. that formed a cross party commission on state education might win some brownie points? SchoolsImprove

  12. LiterateCynic

    andylutwyche Then we will continue to fall in international league tables and, more crucially, fail our young people.. SchoolsImprove

  13. andylutwyche

    LiterateCynic SchoolsImprove I suppose; it depends whether the general public actually believe what they read #theyshouldnot

  14. LiterateCynic

    andylutwyche They should at least make parents expect more.. Unless people make a fuss, nothing will change. SchoolsImprove

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