ISC response to new report: 'A comparative analysis of leading private schools and state schools'

Posted on: 11 Aug 2017
Posted by: Barnaby Lenon

Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the Independent Schools Council, responds to 'Tom Richmond report: A comparative analysis of leading private schools and state schools'.

This analysis is misleading and fundamentally flawed.

Tom Richmond's report is based on the measurement of progress (value-added) between GCSE and A-level, but because independent school pupils do so well at GCSE it is much harder for them to gain significant value-added at A-level: they need to make a far smaller leap to get the top A-level grades. For example, the report says that 'the negative progress score at North London Collegiate means that their students are, on average, performing worse at A-level than students at other schools who achieved the same GCSE results'. But virtually no other schools did achieve 'the same GCSE results' - because North London Collegiate gets the best GCSE results in the country! At both GCSE and A-level almost all their students achieve top grades.

By focusing purely on these two years, this report completely fails to acknowledge that, at independent schools, most of the academic value has already been ‘added’ by the age of 16. This was verified in recent research conducted by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at the University of Durham, which showed that GCSE pupils in independent schools were two years ahead of state school pupils of similar ability.

In 2016, 35% of independent schools’ GCSEs entries gained an A* compared to 6.5% nationally. At A-level, 50% of independent school pupils achieved an A* or A compared to 26% nationally. This is far from ‘failing pupils’ – these are the best results achieved by any school type in the UK.

Department for Education data shows that in 2016, 82 of the top 100 schools in terms of A-level results were independent schools, despite the fact that many state schools are more selective than most independent schools.

Whilst this should not be exclusively about academic value-added, because all-round character development is important and ISC schools are demonstrably strong in that area, the independent sector is rightly proud of its excellent academic tradition and public examination results. Our schools are consistently raising the bar for their students by one or two grades over their baseline predicted results. As this report states, the results achieved by the independent sector are “staggering feats by any measure”.

Independent schools remain committed to working in partnership with state school colleagues through different projects, including teaching support, sharing resources and jointly organising events to enhance pupils’ learning. Many state schools are doing fantastic work and we would like to see more emphasis on collaboration rather than setting state schools and independent schools against each other.