State or private? Part 2: GCSEs
Map 1: Locations of state (red) and private (blue) secondary schools in England
Figure 1: Average numbers of pupils per school (2015)
Map 2: Proportions of secondary schools in each English parliamentary constituency that are state funded
Figure 2: Deprivation index of school postcodes (2015)
Figure 3: Pupils with special educational needs (2015)
Figure 4: Proportions of pupils getting five good GCSEs (2012-2015)
Figure 5: Proportions of pupils getting five good GCSEs (2012-2015)
Figure 6: Average GCSE point scores per subject (2015)
Figure 7: Average GCSE point scores per subject (2015)
Figure 8: Distributions of GCSE grades by subject (2015)
Figure 9: Average total GCSE point scores (2015)
Figure 10: Average total GCSE point scores (2015)
Figure 11: Average numbers of subject entries per pupil (2015)
Figure 12: Average total GCSE point scores (2015)
- In general, private schools do a lot better than state schools at in terms of raw GCSE attainment. Pick your metric of choice, but as a rule of thumb the difference seems to be roughly one grade per subject – which is very consistent with what we saw in the A-Level data.
- However, private schools tend to have a more selective, affluent intake so ought to do better simply because of this. Unfortunately, since the publicly available GCSE attainment data for private schools is incomplete and no value-added measures are included, it's impossible to be sure what, if anything, they are achieving above and beyond their privileged starting points.
- This is not just frustrating for data nerds like me (though it's certainly that). It also compromises the DfE's wonderful open-data work. Moreover, it prevents private schools from making a proper case that they offer not just prestige but also value for money. Lastly and most importantly, it prevents parents from making fully informed choices for their children. For everyone's sake, let's hope this situation improves.
State or private? Part 1: A-Levels
Map 1: Locations of state (red) and private (blue) sixth-form colleges in England
Figure 1: Average numbers of students per college (2015)
Figure 2: Numbers of students per college (2015)
Map 2: Proportions of sixth-form colleges in each English region that are state funded
Figure 3: Deprivation index of school postcodes (2015)
Figure 4: Students with special educational needs (2015)
Figure 5: Proportions of students reaching selected A-Level standards (2015)
Figure 6: Average A-Level point scores per entry (2015)
Figure 7: Distributions of AS and A-Level grades by subject
Figure 8: Average total A-Level point scores per student (2015)
Figure 9: Average value-added per A-Level subject (2015)
Figure 10: Average AS and A-Level value-added by subject (2015)
Figure 11: Distributions of AS and A-Level value-added by subject (2015)
- On the whole, private sixth-form colleges get much better results than state sixth-form colleges, but most of this difference seems to be accounted for by the higher prior attainment of their students (which, credit where credit's due, may be partly a result of the same school's secondary education).
- Consistent with recent comments by the editor of The Good Schools Guide, quite a few state sixth-forms compete with, or even outperform, private ones, especially in terms of academic value-added. So picking a good college (of any kind) is far more important than simply choosing an expensive one and hoping for the best.
- If you're thinking of forking out £30,000 or more for two years at a private college then consider carefully what you're getting for your money. Is there a state sixth-form that might deliver the same results? And what are the costs and benefits beyond the strictly academic? Private schools can offer a lot, it's true, but thirty grand also buys a lot of private tuition, theatre trips and journeys to go out and see the world.