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Buying in the best catchment areas can be more expensive than sending children to private school

"This is not about ‘good schools’ and ‘bad schools’ but about our failure to tackle disadvantage effectively."

New research by the independent think tank Reform Scotland suggests that buying a house in the catchment areas of the best performing Scottish state schools can cost more than sending children to a private secondary school and living in a less expensive area. 

"Scottish education remains highly inequitable," said Keir Bloomer, Chairman of the Commission on School Reform and a Reform Scotland Advisory Board member. "This is not about ‘good schools’ and ‘bad schools’ but about our failure to tackle disadvantage effectively. Until effective action is taken, parents will quite naturally try to buy educational success."

The report used house price statistics from Zoopla to show that of the top 10 schools across the whole of Scotland based on percentage of pupils of S4 roll gaining three or more highers, eight have average house prices at least 34 per cent higher than the local authority average.

Of the bottom 10 schools, eight have average house prices below their local authority average, with six having house prices of at least 20 per cent below.

The report looks at Edinburgh in particular, the average house price paid in Edinburgh over the past three years is £225,931 according to Zoopla. The average house price in the postcode area of Boroughmuir - home to the city's best-performing state school - was £327,313, a difference of £101,382 - borrowing this amount over a 25-year period at an interest rate of 1.99 per cent costs around £127,000.

However, Report Scotland point out that school fees at George Heriot's, George Watson’s and Erskine Stewart's Melville are all around £10,000 a year, meaning the cost of educating two children for six years of secondary school is about £123,000, assuming fees increase by about one per cent a year.

The report cites similar statistics for Aberdeen and Glasgow.

The authors of the report say they are not trying to justify the existence of private schools, nor criticise the decisions parents make, saying: "We simply want to point out that people who live in the catchment area of the best performing state schools have paid to access these schools and should not condemn others who choose to pay for education directly when they are doing so indirectly. What we want to illustrate is the impact and consequence of this catchment system on the most disadvantaged in Scotland."