Independent schools and inequality go hand in hand

23rd August 2013 at 01:00

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.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today