Privately educated children are two years ahead of pupils in the state sector by the time they reach the age of 16, according to a new study.
Researchers from Durham University compared early educational performance with students’ GCSE exam results and found the “private school effect” was evident in every subject, The Times reported. The difference was most marked in French, history and geography. The effect of private schooling was less pronounced in the sciences.
GCSE results for students at independent schools are on average two-thirds of a grade higher in each subject, even after allowances are made for higher academic ability and family background. The research also found that privately educated children out-performed their state school counterparts at every state of assessment, aged 4, 9, 11 and 16.
Without adjusting for background, private school pupils gained GCSE results nearly two grades higher per subject, which could mean an A grade rather than a C grade.
After taking into account factors including academic potential, family wealth and gender the difference fell to about 0.64 of a grade – although researchers warned this was an estimate.
Professor Robert Coe, one of the researchers, said:
“It is always difficult to unpick the causes of any differences, and we think it is unlikely to be purely an effect of better teaching in independent schools.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Thanks to our reforms – which are underpinned by a total commitment to social justice – 1.4 million more pupils are being taught in good or outstanding state schools than in 2010.
“The independent Good Schools Guide has recognised that the state sector is increasingly matching the private sector in terms of academic attainment and learning environment, and more parents are choosing for their children to be educated in the state sector.
Previous figures showed students educated privately were more than twice as likely to attend a Russell Group university than peers from the state sector. Pupils at fee-paying schools were five times more likely to attend Oxford or Cambridge.
However analysis last year showed that leading state schools now perform better in exam league tables than private schools.
Research based on official Department for Education figures found that England’s best 500 state schools are outperforming the top 500 private schools.