The importance of a sense of privilege in education



In DfE statistics released last week on standards of pupil behaviour in state-maintained schools, nationally 91.7 per cent of schools were judged good or outstanding in 2010 inspections: Christopher Cook of the FT concludes from this that ‘behaviour doesn’t appear to be a problem’. This, of course, depends on which way you look at it. The DfE’s statistics show that nearly 2,000 schools inspected failed to meet the standard; the behaviour of pupils at these schools was judged to be merely satisfactory, which, in DfE speak, means the opposite.

My examination of Ofsted 162A inspections of independent proprietorial schools (PDF) offers a startling comparison. On this measure proprietorial schools charging fees less than or on a par with the national average per pupil spend in the state-sector, 97.84% were judged good to outstanding. Unlike the majority of independent schools, these schools are non-selective and, with fees at the most accessible end of the spectrum, often include a high proportion of first-time buyers of independent education. This would seem to bear out James Tooley’s thesis that pupils’ awareness of the cost of their education, the sacrifices their parents are making to enable them to benefit, and of the privilege, leads them to value their education in a way that they would not otherwise. This ‘stake’, or sense of investment, also works to keep parents on board too.

Interestingly, these schools also outperformed the ‘all independent school’ group of which they are a subset (including all charitable trust schools) on the quality of provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development: 93.53% were judged good to outstanding, as against 80% overall. For-profit schools at the lower end of the fee spectrum appear to be more strongly values-led, and more attentive to the needs of the whole child, than charitable trust schools. Far from undermining performance, the need to make a profit appears to focus minds on the quality of educational outcomes.