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Who Chooses Private Schooling in Britain and Why?

Green, Francis; Anders, Jake; Henderson, Morag; Henseke, Golo; (2017) Who Chooses Private Schooling in Britain and Why? (LLAKES Research Paper 62). Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES), UCL Institute of Education: London, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

Through their social exclusivity, private schools are held to have contributed negatively to social mobility among older generations educated in the 20th century. But with huge fee rises, increased income inequality, increased wealth-income ratios, fluctuating public and private means-tested support for fees, and a greater emphasis in public policy on school choice, there may have been changes in the distribution of participation in private schooling. This paper studies whether there has been a notable evolution over recent decades in the social and economic composition of the children who attend Britain’s private schools. Where possible we have triangulated the description, using data from multiple surveys and aggregate information from censuses. Our main findings are as follows: 1.The proportion of school children from UK-resident families who are at private school has remained fairly constant and now stands close to 6 percent. About one in ten adults had been at private school at some point. 2.Private school fees have trebled in real terms since 1980. Despite rising incomes, the average fee for one child has risen from 20 percent to 50 percent of median income. For most, therefore, fees have become less affordable out of current income. 3. Participation in private school is concentrated at the very top of the family income distribution; however, even in the top five percent of the income distribution, only a minority attend private school – thus raising the salience of understanding parents' motives. 4. Leading motives for parents to choose private schooling are the wish for their children to gain better academic results through smaller class sizes and better facilities, and to mix with a preferred peer group. The peer group motive is masked by social desirability bias when using conventional survey methods, but is revealed through alternative methods. 5. We found no evidence that participation in private schooling has become less socially and economically exclusive in recent decades: - Both in the period 1994-2000, and in the period 2001-2016, just under half of private school families came from families in the top decile of the income distribution. - Between 2004 and 2014, there was no change in the proportion of private school parents who belong to the managerial and professional classes. - The cross-sectional income elasticity of participation is nearly zero across most of the income spectrum, but increases at very high incomes. At the 98th percentile it is estimated to be 2.1; in this sense, for the very rich private schooling is a luxury good. Conditional on income at this percentile, the wealth elasticity is estimated to be 0.57. - There was no significant change in the pattern of intergenerational persistence of school-type between the periods 1996-2005 and 2006-2013.

Type: Working / discussion paper
Title: Who Chooses Private Schooling in Britain and Why?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.llakes.ac.uk/publication/research-pape...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: social mobility, private education, independent school, school fees, Assisted Places Scheme, bursaries, peer group, inter-generational persistence
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Education, Practice and Society
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership > Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Social Research Institute
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10043039
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