Children who attend private school will earn £193,700 more on average in their early careers than their state educated peers, according to a new independent report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think tank which analyses the Sutton Trust’s Open Access programme.
Open Access: an independent evaluation, assesses how most effectively to widen access to high performing independent schools on a needs-blind basis. It calculates for the first time the ‘wage premium’ experienced by those attending independent schools. The analysis uses newly available data to estimate that, between the ages of 26 and 42, someone who attends an independent school will earn a total of £193,700 more than someone who attends a state school. Even when factors such as family background and early educational achievement are accounted for, the wage premium persists at £57,653.
Although a range of factors play a part in determining this premium, the analysis reveals that the better educational achievement of those attending independent schools is a major contributor. The report finds students from independent schools are more likely to get good A-levels, more likely to get degrees and to attend the most selective universities. It finds that on the best available evidence – value-added scores – independent schools (on average) progress their children more during their school years than state schools.
Having established the value of private schools in terms of future opportunities, the report assesses The Sutton Trust’s ‘Open Access’ scheme, which seeks to open independent schools up to pupils from all backgrounds based on academic ability.
The proposal is that participating schools receive the same funding per pupil as local state-funded schools currently get, but also charge fees on a means-tested basis, with the poorest families paying no fees. Using the latest data on independent school fees, the researchers estimate that applying the scheme across 100 leading independent schools, covering 62,000 pupils, would cost the government around £215 million per year.
An analysis of the social backgrounds of children who score highly in standardised tests shows that selection based on merit, rather than ability to pay fees, would significantly alter the social composition of the UK’s independent schools – with places more evenly distributed across households incomes:
• The number of children coming from the top 10 per cent of household incomes would roughly halve; and,
• The proportion of children coming from the bottom 40 per cent of household incomes would more than double.
The report also assesses alternatives to selection by merit and measures to boost the chances of less advantaged pupils gaining places including:
• Altering the type of examination that applicants sit to make them more open to pupils from all backgrounds.
• Providing tailored tutorial support to those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
• Delivering targeted outreach to local families including confidential assistance with completing financial application forms.
• Requiring Open Access schools to fill a minimum quota of places with those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.