Project 3.4 The Effects of Private and Quasi-Private Schooling on Society

Project 3.4 The Effects of Private and Quasi-Private Schooling on Society

Project Name: Project 3.4 The Effects of Private and Quasi-Private Schooling on Society
Project Leader:
Susanne Wiborg
Other Project Team Members:
Francis Green, Peter Taylor-Gooby, Andrew Jenkins, Rachel Wilde
Project 3.4 The Effects of Private and Quasi-Private Schooling on Society

Project Details

Does diversity of schools lead to innovation or stagnation?

The role of private schools in society has long been an object of enquiry.  A deep cleavage has developed between state schools and private schools as the latter account for a small minority of pupils yet consumes disproportionate resources.  Since its election, the coalition government has generalised the academy programme (liberating state schools from Local Authority [LA] control) and, controversially, allowed groups to form new state-funded "free schools". The latter, in particular, are thought likely to alter the balance of education provision in an area, and this is our focus of concern.  At the same time private schools are having to confront, via Charity Commission guidelines for compliance with the 2006 Charities Act, their obligations to provide a public benefit from which the poor are not excluded. Detailed examination of how these changes are affecting educational opportunities and provision is now timely. We aim to contribute by examining the relationships between private schools, free schools and conventional state schools (LA-controlled and Academies) and how these relationships are changing in eight diverse areas in England. 

A small literature addresses the role of private schools, in response to the persistent urgency of demands to raise social mobility, but so far no research has been undertaken on the burgeoning free schools, and rather little is known about the nature and extent of the public benefits that private schools in fact provide. This research would seek to contribute to a better understanding of the wider social effects that private and free schools have on the mass of state schools. This project is addressing the questions:

  1. Do free schools promote competition or cooperation amongst schools?
  2. Does diversity of schools lead to innovation or stagnation?
  3. Do free schools overall improve academic standards?
  4. Do free schools promote social integration?
  5. The same issues apply to private schools where there is a concern that successful private schools may skim the state system by directing bursaries and other support to the most able students.

We are combining quantitative and qualitative approaches, and also drawing on existing comparative analyses with Sweden and the US. We utilise the National Pupil Database (NPD) to analyse the impact of free schools on local schooling markets, and to explore the type of neighbourhood from which free schools are recruiting pupils.  This shows the extent of competition with local state schools.  We will examine how they differ from neighbouring state schools to assess whether free schools are exacerbating or reducing local patterns of social stratification. Although existing private schools are not included in NPD, we use the Annual School Census to assess whether any local private schools appear to be losing potential pupils to new free schools. In our eight chosen areas, semi-structured interviews are being carried out with school principals, managers, and local authorities, informed by private schools annual trust reports. We are identifying and assessing the magnitude of, the perceived effects on state schools of the benefits provided by private schools, and of any free schools that have been founded in the area. We also assess impacts on the private schools of their obligation to provide public benefit.     

Theme 3, Project 4 is also connected to ESRC Research Grant awarded to Professor Francis Green at UCL Institute of Education.

Research findings

Project publications:

Wiborg, S., Green, F., Taylor-Gooby, P. and Wilde, R. (2017 online). "", Journal of Social Policy.

'Is there a private school dividend in Britain through assortative mating?', presentation by Francis Green,  SLSS Conference, Bamberg, Germany, 6 Oct 2016

Wilde, R., Green, F., Taylor-Gooby, P. and Wiborg, S. (2015) 'Private Schools and the Provision of "Public Benefit"', Journal of Social Policy, 45 (2) 305-323

Wiborg, S. (2015) 'Privatizing Education: Free School Policy in Sweden and England', Comparative Education Review, 59 (3) 437-497

Moe, T. and  Wiborg S. (2016) The Comparative Politics of Education: Teachers Unions and Education Systems Around the World. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press

Wiborg, S. (2016) ‘Teachers unions in England: the end is nigh?’ Chapter 3 in Moe, T. and  Wiborg S. The Comparative Politics of Education: Teachers Unions and Education Systems Around the World. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press

Wiborg, S. (2016) ‘Teachers unions in the Nordic countries: solidarity and the politics of self interest’ Chapter 6 in in Moe, T. and  Wiborg S. The Comparative Politics of Education: Teachers Unions and Education Systems Around the World. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press

Wiborg, S. and Larsen, K.R. (2017) 'Why School Choice Reforms in Denmark Fail: The Blocking Power of the Teacher Union', European Journal of Education, 52 (1) 92-103   

 

Prof Francis Green recently made some videos about his research, they are free to access within some institutions, or you can subscribe to Faculti and watch: