Myth Six: 'Private schools have the magic DNA'

Janet Downs's picture
 3
This is the fourth of five extracts from our book School Myths: And the Evidence That Blows Them Apart.

…private schools are not, it seems, better at educating their pupils than the state sector. According to Professor Ron Glatter, ‘In spite of these great advantages there is room for doubt about the educational superiority of our private schools. One little reported finding from the PISA results was that once account has been taken of the socio-economic background of pupils, state schools in the UK outperform private schools by a considerable margin’. This suggests two things: first, that that many state schools are doing an excellent job in often highly adverse circumstances and second, that much of the 'success' of our private schools can be attributed, as already argued, to the alchemy of resources combined with the socially and culturally advantaged nature of their intake. Yet this highly significant finding has been almost entirely overlooked in public discussion about this topic.

... OECD surveys confirm that while those who attend private schools tend to perform significantly better in PISA tests pupils in state schools with a similar socio-economic background as private schools tend to achieve the same results.

Indeed, many on the political right now acknowledge that, in many cases, state schools outperform private schools when it comes to the quality of their teaching and leadership. Sam Freedman, former adviser to Michael Gove at the DfE, writing in the Guardian about why state schools don’t need the private sector’s advice, said, ‘…while there are great practitioners in both sectors, teaching well in comprehensives requires a different level of persistence, commitment and skill. Classes are much larger and the ability range is typically much wider. The quality of teaching and leadership I’ve seen in our best inner-city state schools, such as Westminster Academy and Mulberry school in Tower Hamlets … is world-class and would, frankly, be wasted in the private sector.’ Later in the same article, Freedman refers to ‘a widespread and inaccurate belief in the innate superiority of private schools when we should be looking to build on success in the state system.’

We’ll be posting the final short extract over the next few days. The book is available for Kindle from Amazon at £3.

Short extract from Myth One: ‘Comprehensive education has failed’ is here.

Short extract from Myth Three: ‘‘Choice, competition and markets are the route to educational success’ is here.

Short extract from Myth Five: ‘Teachers don’t need qualifications’ is here.
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Comments

Dapplegrey's picture
Fri, 13/02/2015 - 16:55

"The quality of teaching and leadership I’ve seen in our best inner-city state schools, such as Westminster Academy and Mulberry school in Tower Hamlets … is world-class and would, frankly, be wasted in the private sector."

Why would it be wasted in the private sector? Surely superb teaching is needed and appreciated just as much in private schools as in the state sector?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 13/02/2015 - 17:08

Dapplegrey - here's the quote in context. I think Freedman means that the ability to teach pupils of all abilities and tailor teaching to pupils with a wide range of different needs would be wasted in private schools which select only high ability children from advantaged backgrounds.

However, if I'm wrong perhaps Freedman could explain if he reads this blog.


Dapplegrey's picture
Sun, 15/02/2015 - 16:59

Thank you for taking the trouble to answer. Yes, your answer makes sense.
I read the full article and given the views he expressed, I wondered why he worked for the Independent Schools Council and Michael Gove. I mean, it would be like Paul McCartney going hunting.

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