Private school children will earn £200,000 more on average than state-educated kids by 42


Education Editor

Children from private schools will have earned almost £200,000 more than state school pupils by the time they reach middle age, new research reveals today.

A study by the Social Market Foundation think tank shows that in their thirties they can earn up to 38 per cent more a year than their state school counterparts.

“On this evidence,” the study concludes, “limiting the opportunity to attend independent schools to those who are able to afford the high fees is inequitable.

The study, carried out for the Sutton Trust charity, which campaigns for equal opportunities in education, looked at the earnings of people born in the early 1970s and estimated that by the time they had reached the age of 42 those who had been at private schools had earned £193,700 more on average than those from state schools.

It acknowledged that part of the reason for this was because they had come from more affluent homes and arrive in school with better educational outcomes but added: “Even when factors such as family background and early educational achievement are accounted for, the ‘wage premium’ persists at £57,653.

“Independent schools in the UK are bastions of privilege, where a small proportion of predominantly affluent families pay high fees for an education that is associated with higher attainment, good social networks, and lucrative long-term employment outcomes for those attending.”

The analysis shows that after controlling for family background and test scores private school pupils earn five per cent more at 26, 22 per cent more at 29, 20 per cent more at 34, 13 per cent more at 38 and 14 per cent more at 42.

In a foreword to the report, Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, speaks of a “sense of outrage at the waste of talent in Britain” over the class divide in schools.

“I gained an Oxford education and a successful business career largely thanks to the fact that I had access to a free education at a leading independent school,” he adds, “But the opportunities I and many of my generation enjoyed no longer existed for young people in 1997.”

Many of his fellow pupils were educated free at direct grant schools abolished by Labour in the late 1970s.

The Trust is using the findings of the report to press its case for an “open access” scheme to leading private schools, where all young people from disadvantaged backgrounds would be admitted to top independent schools for free.

It has trialled the scheme at Belvedere Girls’ School in Liverpool, which was initially a private school, but at which the Trust now bankrolls admissions so they are “needs blind”. Anyone who passes the entrance test but whose parents could not find the fees was admitted free of charge. Evidence showed the schools’ exam results improved once it opened its doors up to all bright pupils.

Sir Peter now wants to establish a scheme whereby 100 leading independent schools operate an Open Access arrangement. 90 have already promised their support to him for it. Under the proposal, the schools would receive the same funding as state schools per pupil, but also charge fees on a means-tested basis. He estimates it would cost the Government £215 million a year.

The scheme has the support of Labour MP for Dudley, Ian Austin, who said: “The Open Access scheme offers an opportunity to bridge that gap for a significant number able students from poor families.

“Allocating places on merit, rather than ability to pay, has been proven to work - increasing social mobility and the life chances of children from less advantaged backgrounds in places like Dudley. It represents a radical step towards a fairer society at a time when bold solutions to the enduring problems of entrenched advantage are required.”

However, Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, argued:  “While this may be a way of boosting independent schools’ falling rolls, it is complete nonsense. Social mobility will not be addressed by sending a few students from poorer backgrounds to independent schools.

“If the Government has £215 million pounds to spare it should be used where it is needed: in the state sector.”

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