News, Culture & Society

School fees a ‘waste of money because bright pupils thrive anywhere’

Paying school fees is a waste of money because bright children will thrive anywhere, a study suggests.

Grammar schools and private schools were found to create only a tiny increase in exam grades at GCSE level compared to state schools, the research found.

The research looked at performance at maths, science and English GCSEs by boys and girls in England and Wales. It found that the type of school a child went to had little impact on their academic achievement – at least at GCSE level.

Grammar and private schooling was found to have a tiny effect on the results of pupils taking their GCSE exams 

The research indicated that part of the reason pupils who go to selective schools –whether grammar and private – do well is because the best pupils are hand-picked.

Once genes, social and economic background and other factors such as gender were taken into account, the difference was less than a tenth of a grade. 

The study, by researchers at King’s College London, was based on an analysis of more than 4,000 students.

The findings, published in the journal npj Science of Learning, the researchers found that GCSE students at private and grammar schools scored around a grade higher across English, maths and science, than their peers in non-selective schools.

But once factors that are involved in selection are taken into account – such as ability, previous academic achievement and socio-economic status – there was less than a tenth of a grade difference.

Professor Robert Plomin, co-author of the paper, said: ‘We are saying there is no value added from these selective schools. It’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Once other factors were taken into consideration, the type of school attended by children was found to have almost no effect on results 

Once other factors were taken into consideration, the type of school attended by children was found to have almost no effect on results 

‘You take the kids who do the best at school, and show they do the best at school.’

Lead author Emily Smith-Woolley said: ‘Our study suggests that for educational achievement there appears to be little added benefit from attending selective schools.

‘Although school type appears to have little impact on achievement at GCSE, there are many reasons why parents opt to send their children to selective schools.

‘Further research is needed to identify if school type makes a difference in other outcomes, such as university and career success.’

Controversial proposals to lift the ban on creating new grammar schools were a key plank of the Conservative manifesto in last year’s snap general election, but the plans were dropped in the wake of the election result, which saw the Tories lose their overall majority.

But grammars can still take on more pupils under rules that allow good state schools to expand.