We found that pupils who went to independent schools at 11 had better long-term outcomes than those who stayed in the state sector.
For those who went to grammar schools, we found smaller differences in educational outcomes but very little difference in earnings. These differences have to be balanced against worse outcomes for pupils who live in selective areas but who do not attend grammar schools.
(Some readers got in touch to ask if we could repeat the grammar school analysis for an earlier cohort. Perhaps earnings differences emerge later in life? The results of this can be found here [PDF].)
In both cases, although we tried to compare pupils who were otherwise similar at the point of transferring to secondary school, we’re not claiming the results as causal.
Grammar vs independent
Given the world cups in football and cricket that have been going on over the last few weeks, we might as well have a final in this series and pit grammar schools versus independent schools. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t provide quite as much drama as the cricket final).
We’ll look at three cohorts of pupils: those who turned 16 between 2006/07 and 2008/09, having sat Key Stage 2 at a state-funded school. Pupils are only included if they are not observed attending a non-selective state-funded school during their secondary education.
Also, it could be that the decision to go to an independent school was made in response to not getting into a grammar school.
To avoid this affecting the results, we’ll only include pupils who transfer to independent schools from the state sector at age 11 who were living in areas from which no pupils went to grammar school.
Pupils from the independent and grammar schools groups are then matched on their characteristics and some characteristics of their neighbourhoods, to allow comparison of the two groups.
Comparing long-term outcomes
On the whole, by the end of the 2015/16, the two groups were fairly evenly matched on the various indicators shown in the table below. This was particularly the case for those related to Level 3 (A-Level and equivalent) attainment, earnings and employment.
That said, pupils from independent schools in all three cohorts were more likely to achieve first degrees from selective (top third) and Russell Group universities.
The picture is more mixed for other outcomes, however. In some years, grammar schools come out on top; in others there is a slight advantage in favour of independent schools.
In short, given the data we’ve got and the methodology used, it looks like long-term outcomes for pupils who move from the state-funded sector to the independent sector at 11 are broadly similar to those who transfer to grammar schools. However, going to independent school seems to increase your chances of achieving a first degree from a selective university.
The support of the Economic and Social Research Council is gratefully acknowledged.
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1. I statistically match the two groups using the covariate balancing propensity score method, controlling for Key Stage 2 attainment, gender, ethnicity, first language, special educational needs at age 11, free school meals eligibility at age 11, term of birth and some neighbourhood characteristics (IDACI, percentage of owned households and percentage of working age population educated to Level 4 or above). All pupils attending independent schools are included, but the grammar school population is reweighted so that it balances the independent school population in terms of observable characteristics and the propensity to attend an independent school.
2. These are listed in annex A of the methodology guide[PDF] to the DfE destinations statistical release.