A comparison of academic achievement in independent and state schools
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Dr Francis Ndaji, Dr John Little and Professor Robert Coe

This is the first study that has compared the academic performances of pupils in independent and state schools from the age of four. Attending an independent school in England is associated with the equivalent of two additional years of schooling by the age of 16, and the evidence of this study does suggest that similar pupils achieve more in independent schools than in state schools when cross-sector differences are controlled.

The comparison was based on the performances of schools in the two sectors in the Performance Indicators In Primary Schools (PIPS) assessments produced by the Centre For Evaluation and Monitoring, and in GCSE exams. Evidence from the data suggests that independent schools perform better than state schools in PIPS SOR, PIPS Year Four, and PIPS Year Six assessments as well as in GCSE exams.

The differences between the academic achievements of independent and state schools at GCSE varied from one subject to another. The differences were typically highest in French, History and Geography after pupils’ differences were accounted for. They were lowest in Chemistry, Biology and Physics.

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Dr Francis Ndaji, Dr John Little and Professor Robert Coe

Published by:
Centre For Evaluation and Monitoring

Date of publication:
January 2016

Country of origin:

Sponsored by:
Independent Schools Council

CPD opportunities:

Comparing the performance of pupils in independent schools with state schools, this research may provide particularly interesting data for policy makers. 

Comparison of exam data.


Record ID:
R337 / 337
Rating Summary:

6 based on one vote

Useful in informing practice
Useful in informing policy
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Interesting insight 

On 12 May 2016, Claire De la Haye wrote:
This report offers a really interesting comparison between state and independent education pupil outcomes - not least because it is the first study of its kind to capture and account for pupils’ prior academic ability from an early age (start of reception) as well as socio-economic status. The comparison focused on pupils’ academic attainment (grades at key junctures/GCSEs) – the outcomes only as opposed to investigating causation.
It’s a fairly detailed report to plough through – lots of tables of raw data/variables. The general conclusions give you the majority of what you need to know in a succinct 1.5 pages. The headline discovery of the study is that the ‘difference translates to a gain of about two years’ normal progress and suggests that attending an independent school is associated with the equivalent of two additional years of schooling by the age of 16’.
There are also some other interesting subject related findings, such as independent school pupils are achieving the highest difference/lead on the state sector in French, history and geography, but a lower lead in the science subjects.
I personally would always argue that academic achievement and grades are only part of the equation. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to plot the further/higher education and subsequently career achievements of these pupils too?
Useful in informing practice
Useful in informing policy
Generally interesting or inspiring

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