Private schools ‘growing inequality’

Independent schools’ growing superiority over comprehensive schools is pushing inequality in Britain upwards, academics have claimed.

Research from the Centre for Economic Performance due to be presented at a Nuffield Foundation seminar in Oxford later today shows a widening gap in educational attainment among private schools reflecting a doubling of fees in real terms since the 1980s.

Professors Francis Green and Stephen Machin say the extra money has been spent on lowering the number of pupils per teacher and improving facilities in private schools.

According to their research independent schools now employ 14 per cent of teachers but educate less than eight per cent of pupils.

This development suggests comprehensive schools should emulate those in the private sector more closely, Professor Green says.

“Our findings imply that the rising importance of independent schools needs to be given more serious attention by educational policy-makers – not just as a model for the improvement of state schools but as a significant player in the market for scarce teaching resources,” he commented.

Professor Stephen Machin accused the government of not having given more the opportunity to thrive in the resources available to private schooling.

“Since selection into the schools – despite some bursaries and the assisted places scheme – is primarily based on families’ ability to pay, and given the substantial returns achieved, it is hard to escape the conclusion that private schools have served to reproduce inequalities in British society,” he says.