Top teachers go private

January 10, 2003

A cycle of educational advantage whereby privately taught pupils go to top universities, gain good degrees and return to teach in independent schools has been revealed in a survey.

The survey, published this week by the Sutton Trust, shows that teachers in independent schools are seven times more likely to be graduates of Oxford or Cambridge universities - 13 per cent compared with 1.8 per cent in state schools.

Of every 100 Oxbridge graduates in teaching, 54 are in independent schools compared with 37 in comprehensives and nine in grammars. Nearly a third of independent-school teachers are graduates of leading universities, as defined by major league tables, compared with just over 10 per cent of state-school teachers, the survey found.

Crucially, according to Sutton Trust chairman Peter Lampl, these teachers, by personal example and practical advice born of experience, encourage independent-school pupils to aspire to and enter the same top universities.

The survey shows that teachers in independent schools tend to have a higher class of degree. They are twice as likely as state-school teachers to have gained a first, and five times more likely to hold a PhD. They are also more likely to be teaching the subject in which they graduated, especially in maths and the sciences.

Mr Lampl said: "Students in state schools are being shortchanged by not having access to the most highly qualified teachers."

He said that the cycle was perpetuated at leading universities. Funding council figures show that most of those topping league tables for teaching and research quality recruit more than a quarter of their students from independent schools. Independent schools educate just 7 per cent of pupils overall.

Mr Lampl said that schemes to encourage top university graduates to teach in state schools were limited because those with good degrees could earn far more working outside teaching. Those who went into teaching were drawn to the private sector, where pay was often higher, workloads lighter and conditions and pupil behaviour better, he said.

Mr Lampl said that the government should consider opening independent schools to children from poorer backgrounds as a way of breaking the cycle.

He pointed to the Sutton Trust's collaboration with the Girls' Day School Trust, which runs 25 independent girls' schools. The trust funds up to 60 per cent of places, in whole or part, in a pilot project run at The Belvedere School in Liverpool.

The Sutton Trust's survey was carried out by Alan Smithers and Louise Tracey of the Centre for Education and Employment Research, at Liverpool University.

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