Non-association private schools, those fee-paying schools not associated to groups affiliated to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), are less likely to be good or better than state schools.
Figures released today show 72% of non-association independent schools were good or better at their most recent inspection. This is against 89% of all state schools.
Non-association private schools were more likely to be inadequate. 11% were given the bottom grade at their most recent inspection against just 2% of all state schools.
Since August 2015 the proportion of state schools judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection has increased while Inspection outcomes for non-association independent schools have declined.
The Government’s currently consulting on how independent schools can contribute to the state system. Based on the inspection data above, the answer could be ‘Not much’. That would be unfair, of course, because 72% of them are as good as state schools. But for the 28% non-association private schools which are not good or better, the question might be the other way round: what can these schools learn from the state sector?
When the Government talks about independent schools, it’s not likely to be referring to non-association private schools, of course. It’s alluding to the ‘best’ independent schools. Unfortunately in England, any private school is perceived as being better than state schools. But inspection of non-association independent schools show this isn’t the case.
What, then, are the ‘best’ independent schools? They are likely to be ISC association schools which are assumed to be 'best'. There are 600 ‘senior’ ISC schools* in England. Many are highly selective. This accounts for higher exam results at the 'best' independent schools when compared with the state sector which educates pupils of all abilities.
Quite how these 600, supposedly 'best', schools could support all 3,401**state secondary schools in England is unclear.
That’s not to say state and independent schools, whether ISC or non-association, shouldn’t collaborate for mutual benefit. But it should be grounded in mutual respect and benefit. It should not be based on one group (independent) sharing their ‘DNA’ with less superior schools (state). And cooperation should not be enshrined in law.
Unfortunately, that’s the premise underlying the Government’s survey on, among other things, how independent schools should support state ones. It’s the false assumption that state schools, unless they are selective ones, are inferior to private ones.
But the latest data for non-associated fee-paying schools show this is not the case.
* ISC schools roughly equivalent to state secondary schools
**Department for Education national tables for Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2016, downloadable here.
CORRECTION Paragraph five of the original article contained a typo. I originally said 18% of non-association fee-paying schools were less than good. This should have been 28%. I've now corrected it.