Can sending your kids to private school make you better off?

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A think tank has claimed that we'd all be £6,000 better off if more children went to private school. The Adam Smith Institute claims it's the most cost-effective way to boost the country's exam results and thereby improve our earning potential.

But given the extraordinary cost of a private school education, how can this be possible?%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Gabriel Heller Sahlgren, research director at the Centre for Market Reform of Education, argues that in the past the country has focused on the 'quantity' of education - investing to keep people studying for longer. This, he argues, has been a waste of money because it had no impact on economic growth: it's quality that counts.

He used a number of international comparisons, where the approach to schooling is different. Most notably the Netherlands, where the state pays for 60% of children to have access to private education (compared to the 8% paid for by parents in the UK). He calculates that if the UK had a similar approach since 1960, it would have made us all £6,000 a year better off by 2007.

Using the Dutch example, he adds that it would also have boosted the number of independent schools, which would have increased competition between them - encouraging them to attain ever-higher results, while at the same time keeping fees as low as possible.

Sahlgren is calling on the government to increase the number of free schools, and introduce a voucher scheme which would enable pupils to go to a school of their choice - either public or independent - and would enable more parents to afford private school.

The down side

On an individual basis, however, the sums are completely different. Within the current system, the Social Market Foundation has calculated that a private school education doesn't pay.

Earlier this month it announced that although putting a child through private school increases their earnings as an adult, when they removed the effects of family background, they found it only increased their total earnings as an adult by £57,653 over 16 years. This is a long way off the cost of the education itself, which even if it was only a day school - and just for secondary school - would come to an average of £85,071.

This piece of research also called for more government assistance for children to study at private school: in this instance they called for more assisted places.

But what do you think? Can private school make a difference? Or does it only really matter if you want to go into politics?

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