Independent or State School, House Prices and Inspections!


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Is the decision to privately educate your child, all about the money?

This research provides new evidence, explaining the determinants of private schooling in the 21st century, including some of “the first evidence on the importance of permanent, rather than contemporary, family income in predicting private school attendance.”

If you have children, do they attend the nearest state or independent school? Perhaps the school choice is based on income or geographical proximity?

In a new research paper (Anders et al., 2020) academics analyse the association between social class or family income, and attending a private school.

New evidence; first of its kind …

Determinants of private school participation: all about the money?About 9 per cent of pupils attend English private schools (Green et al, 2018). Today, there are approximately 569,000 pupils in independent schools across England (from a total of 8.9 million pupils).

Recently, there has been speculation by the Labour government to remove the VAT exemption for parents who pay for private education.

An increase in school fees in the private sector and the promotion of school choice in the state sector are “all important implications for the characteristics of those who participate in private schooling.”

Even among families with high levels of income, it is far from the case that all children actually attend a private school (Green et al., 2018).

The research indicates the following in the literature review:

  • Private school funding drives almost exclusively from fees, donations and business activities
  • Three quarters are registered as a charity bringing an obligation to provide ‘public benefit’ in return for a degree of public subsidy through tax relief
  • They are generally considered elite institutions, reflecting the social composition of their intake / resources
  • They can provide smaller classes, broader education and a wider range of extracurricular activities
  • Approximately 13% of pupils attending British private schools are boarders
  • The average annual boarding fee is ~£33,684 / daily fee ~ £14,562
  • Despite dramatic increases in fees since the 1980s, participation rates has remained stable at 7% (DfE, 2018)


Several theories are evaluated.

  1. What are the financial resources and parental values for those who mix and match (state/private) schooling and how do they differ from those who attend private school consistently?
  2. What are the parental values in private school attendance explained by family income, particularly those with high levels of income?
  3. How does ‘travel time to independent schools’ associate with the demand for private schooling?
  4. Are shorter travel times to ‘well-regarded’ state schools negatively associated with the demand for private schooling?
  5. Is permanent family income more important than contemporary family income when predicting private school attendance?
  6. Is additional family income a strong predictor of private school attendance for those with already relatively high levels of income?

You will need to read pages 6-8 to understand what the full research reveals. I have merely looked at this research paper from an Ofsted inspection perspective.

School quality …

The research acknowledges that school quality is a contested concept, in particular schools judged outstanding by Ofsted (I quote) “are not necessarily those best placed to produce the most ‘well-rounded’ individuals at the end of their time in school.”

Only recently discovered other evidence to suggest that Ofsted ratings of “secondary school quality accounted for 4% of the variance in students’ educational achievement at age 16” (von Stumm et al., 2021).

It appears Ofsted gradings are not a reliable predictor of pupil’s success …

There is very little in this research paper on Ofsted, so, I turned again to have a closer look at poverty and house prices.

House prices

We know the evidence on state school admission “demonstrates the value that parents place on getting their child into a good school through the effect of the presence of a good school on house prices.”

Ofsted House Prices,

The literature consistently finds housing valuations to be significantly higher in places where measured school quality is higher, implying a strong parental willingness to pay to get their children educated in better-performing schools. (Machin, 2011)

Popping over to this research paper for a moment, there is now a “large literature looking at empirical connections between house prices and observable measures of school quality.”

No wonder estate agents go crazy for Ofsted grades in their local areas to help new houses on the market!

This research estimates the coefficient on school quality to reflect the casual impact of school quality on house prices.

It suggests that “school quality is capitalised into housing values” and that there is a “significant statistical association” and an increasingly large number of published papers.

N.b. There is a fascinating London map highlighting house prices/poverty. It would make for an interesting analysis to compare house prices versus Ofsted grades.


In the first paper referenced in this blog, several conclusions are offered explaining why parents transition between state and private schools at primary and secondary level.

  1. Families send their children to primary private school more than they do to secondary.
  2. One-fifth of those who attended a private primary school switched to a state school for their secondary education.
  3. Families who mix and match between primary and secondary private/state school are economising at one phase to afford private education during the other.
  4. Family income is important, but it should not be considered in isolation.
  5. Traditional and educational values are important in predicting attendance to a private school.
  6. 10 minutes of reduced travel time to the nearest private school is associated with 4% points increased attandance to a private school.
  7. 10 minutes of reduced travel time to an outstanding state school = 2% points lower rates of attendance to a private school.
  8. Permanent income is more important than contemporary income.
  9. Older sibling attendance is also a highly predictive factor.

This research offers a nuanced understanding for those seeking to understand the competition between state and private education sectors and the circumstances under which this occurs …

Download the full paper.