6th September 2017
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State schools' medical students outperform private school peers, study finds
Medical students are nearly twice as likely to graduate top of their class if they were educated in the state sector rather than at fee-paying schools, according to research by the University of Aberdeen. It comes despite the fact students from private institutions score slightly higher in the entry tests.
Professor Jen Cleland, lead author of the paper, said that state school students tend to be more motivated and resilient than their privately educated counterparts, which means they are better equipped for the challenges of medical school.
"While this study didn't look at why students from state schools significantly outperform students from independent schools, one possibility is that that once given equal access to resources, state-educated students take advantage of the opportunities available to them," she said.
The University of Aberdeen study is the first in the UK to look at the relationship between students' secondary school grades, the school they attended and their performance through medical school.
All other things being equal, those from state schools are likely to outperform those from independent schools once studying medicine at university, researchers said. It considered candidates' demographics including pre-entry grades and pre-admission test scores to medical school.
The score each student achieved in their Educational Performance Measure on completion of medical school was then used as the overall measurement of success. Students from independent schools scored significantly higher in pre-admission tests compared to those from state schools, despite there being no significant difference between Ucas scores.
However, over the course of studying medicine at university, those from state school were more likely to outperform their private schooled peers. They were shown to be almost twice as likely to finish in the top 10% of class, compared with independently educated classmates.
Private school fee increases outstrip inflation and wage growth
The cost of private education has increased by more than a fifth in the past five years, with Greater London topping the table, according to research by Lloyds Private Banking.
The rise far outstrips the rise in UK earnings over the period, making private school increasingly unaffordable for many parents. The average annual private school fee in 2017 is now equivalent to over a third (39%) of the average UK annual gross full-time earnings of £35,148, up from 30% in 2004.
Over the past five years, the average annual fee for day pupils has increased from £11,448 in 2012 to £13,830 – a rise of 21%. This is nine percentage points higher than the increase in the Retail Price Index (12%) and three and a half times more than the 6% rise in full time gross annual earnings over the same period.
The situation is worse in London, which has seen fees rise 25% since 2012 to £15,560. Over 13 years, the costs have risen by 87%. This leaves parents facing a bill from reception to 18 of £176,301. London is followed by the South East (£171,042) and the South West (£156,120). Parents in the North pay the least at £123,447 – around £53,000 less than in London.
Another issue facing private school parents may be political change. In the Labour party’s last election campaign, they committed to charge VAT on school fees, which would hike prices by 20%.
Around one-third of private school pupils receive some kind of financial assistance. An estimated 168,025 pupils currently receive help totalling £900m, an increase of 4.9% on last year. A significant majority (85%) of total fee assistance is provided directly from the schools themselves.
Pupil numbers remain largely unchanged compared to five years ago. While the number of senior school pupils (11 to 16) has fallen slightly (by 1%), pupils in the other age groups have increased. The number of sixth formers in private education (17 to 19) has grown by 8%, the number of children in private junior schools (4 to 10) has risen by 6% and those in nursery schools (0 to 3) by 4%. While some have suggested that the private school population is increasingly supplemented by international students, research from the Independent Schools Council suggests this is not the case – there are 27,281 non-British pupils whose parents live overseas, 5.2% of the total ISC pupil population in 2017. This has not changed significantly in 30 years.
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