New research confirms value of independent schooling
Jun 18, 2015
Australian research analysing the tertiary entrance performance of over 40,000 Victorian
students, published yesterday by the Australian Journal of Education, has confirmed that
independent schools substantially add value to their students' academic performance, even after
allowing for students' socio-economic background and prior achievement.
'Recent claims that there is no academic benefit for students in attending an independent school
are wrong,' said Mr Geoff Ryan, the Chief Executive of the Association of Heads of Independent
Schools of Australia.
'The analysis undertaken by Dr Gary Marks found that, on average, attendance at an
independent school adds eight points to a student's ATAR score, even after allowing for their
SES and Year 9 achievement,' said Mr Ryan. 'This is consistent with the findings of every study
of Year 12 results against Year 9 or Year 10 test results undertaken since 1999.'
Mr Ryan said the Victorian study also tracked students who changed schools between Years 9
'Students shifting to an independent school during senior secondary school gain an advantage of
up to eight ATARs net of their SES and Year 9 achievement,' said Mr Ryan. 'This is further
evidence of the value adding by independent schools.'
Mr Ryan said that while recent analysis of NAPLAN data for the primary years was held to be
evidence that the high academic results of independent schools were simply a reflection of the
characteristics of their students, AHISA's analysis of student gain data on the My School website
suggested a more complex story.
'Dr Marks suggests in his paper that value adding by independent schools could begin before
Year 9,' said Mr Ryan. 'This is also indicated by our preliminary analysis of NAPLAN results of
AHISA members' schools as published on My School.'
'Our analysis is still incomplete,' explained Mr Ryan, 'but so far the student gain data for Years 3-
5, 5-7 and 7-9 shows that, on average, students in our members' schools are generally achieving
above expected academic scores compared to students with similar starting scores. This holds
for reading and numeracy, but the value adding is particularly striking in the domain of persuasive
Mr Ryan said attempts to downplay or deny the value of independent schooling did nothing to
raise the overall standard of education in Australia.
'Research suggests the main contributing factor to the academic success of independent schools
is their academic environment or "academic press",' said Mr Ryan. 'Academic press is defined as
the extent to which schools press their students to perform at a higher level, for example through
higher academic expectations or more homework. This is not "secret schools' business". As we
know from the many stories of dramatic improvements in schools, all teachers and all schools can
make a difference when they have high expectations of their students.'
Written by the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA), 2 June 2015