Do private schools give students an educational advantage?

Researchers at the Institute of Education at University College London have conducted a study that looks at whether there are any educational advantages to attending private schools in the upper secondary years (Years 12 and 13).

Published in the Oxford Review of Education, the study used data from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies’ Next Steps cohort study and linked this to national pupil achievement information between 2005 and 2009. The researchers followed a sample of 5,852 pupils who attended a private or state school while doing their A-levels.

The profiles of the two groups of pupils were very different – pupils arrived in private school sixth forms with significantly higher prior attainment in GCSEs, and from households that had twice the income of families whose children attended state school sixth form. However, the researchers used the data available from Next Steps to allow for socio-demographic characteristics and prior achievement. Allowing for these characteristics, pupils at private schools outperformed those at state schools in their total A-level score by eight percentile points. Private school pupils also performed better on those subjects deemed to be more important to elite universities.

The researchers suggest that the reason for the difference may lie in the vastly superior resources per pupil in private schools (three times the state school average), including smaller pupil-teacher ratios (roughly half the state school average). However, they caution that their results are not truly causal.

Source: Private schooling, subject choice, upper secondary attainment and progression to university (November 2019), Oxford Review of Education

Extracurricular activity: more is not necessarily better

In this study from the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, researchers examine how the breadth of activities in which an adolescent participates relates to academic outcomes. The sample included more than 800 ethnically diverse 11th grade (Year 12 pupils). The researchers looked at the relationships between these pupils’ participation in four activity domains (academic/leadership groups, arts activities, clubs, and sports) and their sense of belonging at school, academic engagement, and academic achievement.

Results showed that adolescents who were moderately involved (ie, in two domains) reported a greater sense of belonging at school in both Year 12 and Year 13, a higher grade point average in Year 12 and greater academic engagement in Year 13, relative to those who were more or less involved.

Source: Too much of a good thing? How breadth of extracurricular participation relates to school-related affect and academic outcomes during adolescence (2011), Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(3)

Do summer schools help to widen participation in higher education?

The Sutton Trust has run summer schools aimed at Year 12 pupils from a “non-traditional HE background” since 1997. Around 10,000 young people have participated in the scheme, which aims to widen participation in higher education.

A new report from the University of Bristol looked at young people’s subsequent applications and registrations to universities. It found that the summer schools are effective in generating proportionately more UCAS applications and registrations from attendees. Underprivileged students are less likely to target the more elite universities, but the summer school helped to reduce this difference.

Source: The impact of the Sutton Trust’s summer schools on subsequent higher education participation: a report to the Sutton Trust (2011), Sutton Trust