Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Why Independent Education matters

The ongoing tirade against independent schools in much of the national press has gathered pace in recent times and seems to be actively nudged and encouraged by politicians and journalists across the spectrum.  Even poor performances by the national football team have been attributed to the ‘over dependence on the 7% of pupils who attend private schools’ in the press. Such criticism is both unreasonable and unfounded.

Exam results open doors for the future for young people and therefore remain a key feature for future selection to higher education and the world of work.  At GCSE/IGCSE the number of A*/A grades awarded to independent school pupils in 2016 was 60%, three times the national average, while at A Level the number of entries awarded A*-A grades was over 50%, twice the national average.

This is not just a focus on the academic high flyers. Extensive and ground breaking research by Durham University published in 2016, which analysed over one million independent and maintained sector pupils’ test scores to GCSE gathered across two decades, found that ‘When student differences such as prior ability, socio economic status and average performance of a pupil’s school are taken into account, attending an independent school adds the equivalent of two additional years of schooling by the age of 16’.  In international terms that would mean that if all UK pupils performed to the level of those in the independent sector then the UK’s educational profile would rise above the highest European performers (such as Finland and the Netherlands) and would be on a par with the highest rated school systems globally.  

The enhanced academic performance extends to the Sixth Form too where DFE figures show that 37% of maintained schools add value compared to 94% of independent schools in Independent School Council (ISC) associations.

The offer rate for university applicants from HMC and GSA schools has increased steadily since 2011 and outpaced the equivalent figures for state schools. For example, Russell Group offers in response to applications from independent school pupils rose from 75% in 2013 to 80% in 2016 and Oxbridge offer rates have remained stable.

And what of the world of work?  According to recent research, 82% of independent school pupils gain a First or 2:1 degree compared to 73% of state school students, and many of the latter are from very selective maintained schools. Research by a number of institutions, including The Sutton Trust, highlights that independently educated young people move on to earn significantly more and secure high level jobs far out of proportion to their numbers.

You may have read also about the Government’s Green Paper entitled ‘Schools that work for everyone’. The ISC has just submitted a powerful and factual response which clearly demonstrates not just the positive economic and financial impact made by independent schools, but also the comprehensive and imaginative engagement of the independent sector with meaningful partnerships between independent and maintained schools. These partnerships make a real and lasting difference to young people across the board. We are very proud of Canford’s community partnership programme which was cited specifically on several occasions within the ISC report.

I am constantly astounded by the depth of talent and creativity our pupils possess, their sensitivity and humility, their confidence and purposefulness.  They say people make places, and this is certainly true at Canford.  The passion and commitment of Canford’s staff, and the strength of the working relationships they have with the pupils, combines powerfully with the spectacular range of high quality opportunities we offer, whether these be academic and intellectual, physical or creative. In turn, this ethos and vibrant learning environment ensures Canfordians develop the aspiration, ambition, curiosity and confidence which, together with crucial ‘soft skills’, constitute the raw ingredients for a fulfilling and successful life.

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