Independent school teachers are three times as likely to hold Oxbridge degrees

Posted on: 19 Jun 2015

One in six independent secondary school teachers have a subject degree from either Oxford or Cambridge, meaning they are more than three times as likely to have been awarded an Oxbridge degree, compared to nationally.

Independent secondary school teachers are also more likely to have post graduate qualifications in the specialist subjects that they teach, especially in the subjects of Physics and Maths. Nearly one in 15 teachers in independent schools holds a PhD, compared to about one in 40 in state schools.

The findings come in a report published today by the Sutton Trust, Teaching by degrees, examining the university backgrounds of teachers in the state and independent sectors. The report is based on data supplied by the Independent Schools Council Teacher Survey and the National Foundation for Educational Research’s Teacher Voice survey.

91% of Physics teachers in independent schools possess a qualification in a subject relevant to their teaching, and in Maths, 87% possess a relevant qualification. In Maths, independent secondary teachers are more than twice as likely to possess a relevant Master’s degree and in Science, one in five teachers possess a subject specialist qualification.

In English, the proportion of independent secondary teachers with post graduate qualifications is also substantially higher, with independent teachers twice as likely to have a relevant Master’s degree and three times as likely to possess a PhD.

The high proportion of well qualified teachers in the independent sector continues if Russell Group universities are considered.

Over half of independent teachers have a qualification from a Russell Group university and teachers in independent schools are more than twice as likely to have completed a Master’s from a Russell Group university.

Impact of subject specialist teaching:

That specialist subject teaching can make a real difference is suggested by recent analysis of A-level results based on JCQ data1, conducted by ISC. This demonstrates that independent schools continue to punch above their weight in academic achievement. While independent school pupils constitute 13.6% of all entries at A-level, they achieve 29.5% of all A*grades, with similar trends in specific key subjects including Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths.

Subject % of candidates % of A* grades
Physics 18.3% 34.0%
Biology 14.1% 28.7%
Chemistry 16.6% 31.7%
Maths 17.2% 29.5%
Further Maths 26.1% 37.3%

Sharing specialist subject knowledge through Partnership with state schools:

Independent schools are keen to share this specialist subject knowledge and 93% of schools work in partnership with their local senior or primary schools and communities.

Many schools offer specialist subject classes to state schools, including extra support with Maths and Physics, as well as classes in subjects not available in some schools such as Classics and Modern Foreign Languages. They also offer GCSE and A-level revision classes, drama, music and sport teaching and facilities and share professional and subject staff development.

Barnaby Lenon, Chairman, Independent Schools Council, said:

“Independent schools have long recognised that teachers with high quality qualifications are hugely important in helping pupils achieve the best grades they can. Teachers with specialised subject knowledge are best equipped to instil enthusiasm for learning in students and our schools continue to seek highly qualified graduates who can be trained and developed professionally into first rate teachers.

“Independent schools are keen to continue to share this expertise with state schools and 93% of our schools work in Partnership with them, offering specialist subject teaching and revision classes at GCSE and A-level.”

Notes to Editors

About ISC schools

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) brings together seven associations of independent schools, their heads, bursars and governors. Through our member associations we represent nearly 1,300 independent schools and 500,000 pupils in the UK.

ISC schools are ranked among the best in the world by the OECD. They contribute £9.5 billion to the economy, slightly larger than the City of Liverpool or the BBC, generate £3.6 billion in tax and support 227,200 people in employment.

Our seven member associations are Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, Girls’ Schools Association, the Independent Association of Prep Schools, the Independent Schools Association, the Society of Heads, the Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools, the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association. For more information please visit the ISC website:

Please contact:

Tracy Cook, Head of Press, ISC
Tel: 020 7766 7060
Out of hours: 07825 806017

1 Figures are based on A-level results from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) for 2014 and cover all schools and further education colleges in the UK. Independent schools in this data include both ISC and non ISC independent schools.