Survey Variable: Private School Attendance

In the UK, private school attendance is often taken as a shorthand for privilege, so the Privilege and Participation survey asked a short series of questions about the kinds of schools that people have attended. Figure 1 (above, using weighted data) show the answers to these questions, starting with the last type of school that people attended (panel A).[1] A quarter (25.4%) attended a comprehensive school, a further third (33.9%) attended either a grammar (17.3%) or a secondary modern (16.6%) school, and approaching three in ten (28.4%) attended some other form of state school. This means that getting on for nine in ten people (87.7%) finished their schooling at some widespread form of state school. Only on in seventeen people (5.9%) attended a private school, which is slightly lower than the one in fourteen (7.0%) who do so in the population. That said, some people in the ‘Other type of school’ category (6.4%) could have attended a specific form of independent school (e.g., an international school) that they wished to distinguish from independent schools in general. Further, one in ten people (10.4%) attended a private primary school (panel B) even if they went onto finish their schooling at a state institution.

Amongst those who attended private school at some stage, two thirds (67.6%) had their fees paid entirely by their parents (panel C). More than a fifth (22.4%) received either a partial (14.9%) or full (7.5%) scholarship to cover their fees, leaving one in ten (10.1%) who had some other arrangement. This means that more than eight in ten (82.5%) people who attended private school at some stage had at least some of their fees paid by their parents. Figure 2 (below, also using weighted data) shows that those who attended private school at some stage constitute roughly one in eight people (12.3%). This attendance could be during their primary education, their secondary education, or both, and the group encompasses people who had short or long periods in private education. It also covers people who received private education for a range of reasons, from those who have a family tradition of attending a certain public school to those whose parents took on extra work, saved, or cut household expenditure in other areas to send them to a private school. Nevertheless, the people who attended private school, and especially those whose parents paid their fees, can be seen as the recipients of a form of unearned privilege that is not available to the vast majority of the population.

Figure 2. See also Table A2.
Variable namespr_schtyp_rmv, back_schtyp_primid
Number of cases1,383, 1,405
Number of categories8, 2
Categories to code as missingNone
Cases to code as missingNone
Recoded variable namespr_prvsch_b
Number of cases1,386
Number of categories2
New and old categoriesAny respondent who indicated that
the last school they attended was
private (category 7 on pr_schtype_rmv)
or that they had attended a private
primary school (category 1 on
back_schtyp_primid) were coded as 1
(‘Yes’) on the new variable indicating
any private school attendance. All other
respondents were coded as zero, except
those (n = 19) who did not indicate the
last type of school they attended (which
could have been private) and attended
a state primary school.
Details of the original and recoded private school attendance variables.

[1] See also Table A1.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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