Private school
Running towards success: Private school graduates enjoy some advantages that their lower-income peers don't. Source: Shutterstock

New research is cementing what many already believe to be true: that students who attend a private school tend to enjoy better university access and better career outcomes upon graduating. 

Academics from the University College London’s Institute of Education have found that privately educated children can get up to two grades higher in their A-Levels than their state school peers.

Once socio-economic background and academic attainment were taken into account, students from fee-paying schools were still more likely to be offered places from elite universities, partly due to their choice of subjects and partly due to their higher results, according to research.

Researchers analysed the data and background of over 5,800 students born in 1990; they found that students at private schools were more likely to choose traditional subjects (i.e. Maths, Further Maths, English Literature, Languages, History, Geography, Physics, Biology and Chemistry) for A-levels, or subjects typically favoured by top universities.

The report added that privately educated pupils did better on average in their A-Levels by as many as two grades in the traditional subjects, which could be the difference between ABB and AAA.

“These are non-trivial ‘effects’ which, if interpreted as reflecting a causal impact from private schools, could be set against the high fees by parents who are considering whether to invest in private education for their child at sixth form,” said the report.  

Professor Francis Green, Principal Investigator on the research project, told The Daily Telegraph that their  research conclusively reveals an advantage for those who attend a private sixth form. This is unsurprising, largely due to the superior resources at private schools and their smaller class sizes. 

Students from similar socio-economic backgrounds and with the same A-Level grades in the same subjects were just as likely to get into top universities, regardless of which kind of school they went to, said research.  

The private school advantage

Private school

Many private school graduates go on to hold influential positions in society. Source: Shutterstock

Given the benefits of attending a private school, it’s unsurprising that the number of students in such institutions have skyrocketed in recent years. But private schools aren’t without their negatives – they’re hugely expensive to attend, raising the argument that private schools further drive inequality and do little to facilitate social mobility as only an elite few can afford to attend them.

The private school advantage can’t just be seen in grades alone – many privately educated individuals also go on to hold positions of power.

For instance, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended private school, and the Sutton Trust found that nearly two-thirds of Johnson’s cabinet were also privately educated. 

Over in Australia, The Feed reported that eight out of the 52 permanent New South Wales male judges attended Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview – a private secondary school in Sydney – that charges upwards of AUS$25,000 a year for tuition. Of the 41 remaining male judges, around three quarters attended Sydney University.

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