Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Schools - the Best Education Money Can Buy?: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Schools - the Best Education Money Can Buy?: News

Article excerpt

Private schooling doesn't lead to better results, study suggests.

Parents the world over are in no doubt that sending their children to private school will improve their life chances, thanks to the smaller class sizes, individual attention and better facilities on offer.

But researchers behind a new study of primary school exam results have claimed that students who attend private schools do not actually perform better than their peers in the state sector.

Factors such as a child's birthweight, their socio-economic status and even the number of hours their mother worked were found to be far more effective predictors of academic attainment than the type of school they attended.

The research, carried out in Australia by academics from the University of Queensland, analysed the results of 26,000 students in Year 3 (aged 8-9) and Year 5 (aged 10-11) in national tests. Two-thirds of the children attended state schools, 20 per cent went to private Catholic schools and the rest were at other private schools.

In terms of raw results, students attending private schools appeared to perform better than their state school counterparts, with those attending Catholic schools coming out top.

However, after taking the impact of variables such as household income, health and parental education into account, researchers found that there was little statistical difference in the academic achievement of children from similar backgrounds, irrespective of what type of school they attended.

"We found that (national) test scores ... of students from Catholic and other private schools did not statistically differ from those in public schools," the report says. "Our finding seems to suggest that 'nature' provides a more consistent role than 'nurture' at affecting children's cognitive outcome in this young age group."

"Significantly lower" test scores were achieved by children who weighed less than 2.5kg (5lb 8oz) at birth, an outcome that the researchers believed could have resulted from related developmental delays.

Students whose mothers worked longer hours also tended to struggle. Children whose parents had stayed in school until the age of 18, however, achieved significantly higher test scores.

The authors argued that their findings debunked conventional wisdom that "private schooling enables children to achieve better academic results". …

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