Independent schools and inequality go hand in hand

Mike Rath

Something that always amuses me is how easy it can be to find research to fit with a point you're trying to make. Barnaby Lenon states that "when they reach university, our students do better than those from the maintained sector" ("University fair access quotas are 'so wrong'", Comment, 16 August).

Well, here is some research that says the complete opposite - and it is not unique. A paper from the University of Warwick's Department of Economics titled "Schooling effects on subsequent university performance: evidence for the UK university population" states that "on average, a male (female) graduate who attended an independent school is 6.5 (5.4) percentage points less likely to obtain a 'good' degree than is a student who attended an LEA (that is, state sector) school".

It adds: "We also find considerable variation around this average figure across different independent schools. We find that, for males, the variation in the probability of attaining a 'good' degree across schools can largely be explained by school fees."

The obvious conclusion here is that saying university access quotas are "so wrong" is just rubbish. If we want state school students to be allowed to perform to their potential, we have to accept that A-level results by themselves are not the best indicators of degree potential. The independent sector can artificially boost a student's grades.

Mike Rath, Barnstaple, Devon.

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Mike Rath

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