Those who go to private school will earn an average of £472,143 more by the age of 65. Photo: Getty
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£472,143: the value of a private education

Those who go to private school will earn an average of £472,143 more than state-educated pupils by the age of 65.

Private education: what a con. A new report from the Social Market Foundation finds that private education is worth an average of £57,653 to a person’s income later in life. Given that average annual fee for private day schools is £12,582, the temptation is to ask: why bother going private?

But hang on. The figure of £57,653 only takes into account the difference in earnings between private and state school pupils (discounting family background and social circumstances) between the ages of 26 and 42. For two people working to the age of 65, the benefit of private education would be worth £140,529 at a conservative estimate; and that’s before other benefits – higher pension plans; and the benefits of better paying jobs that they can they pass onto their children – are taken into account. That remains a good rate of return on the £85,000 it costs to send a child to an independent day school for seven years.

Most of the attention on the SMF’s report has focused on the value, or otherwise, of private education. But a more significant finding has been ignored.

In total, between the ages of 26 and 42, someone who attended an independent school will earn £193,700 more than someone who attended a state school. Strip away the benefits attributed to private education, and that still amounts to £136,047. Assume that the average benefits will continue to 65 (which amounts to a conservative estimate, as pay differentials increase later in life) and there is a £331,614 “dividend” for those attending private school that is attributable to family background and social circumstance.

Add it to the direct benefits of going to independent school, and those who go to private school will earn an average of £472,143 more than the state educated by the age of 65. This is what the New Statesman called the 7 per cent problem earlier this year.

Blaming it all on private schools is expedient, of course. But almost two-thirds of the earnings gap is down to wider advantages not related to what school you went to – wider social capital that is far more entrenched. The relationship between what parents and children earn is higher in Britain than anywhere else in the OECD. The reasons for this lack of social mobility go far deeper than where you went to school.

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

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As the strangers approach the bed, I wonder if this could be a moment of great gentleness

I don’t know what to do. In my old T-shirt and M&S pants, I don’t know what to do.

It’s 1.13am on an autumn morning some time towards the end of the 20th century and I’m awake in a vast hotel bed in a small town in the east of England. The mysterious east, with its horizons that seem to stretch further than they should be allowed to stretch by law. I can’t sleep. My asthma is bad and I’m wheezing. The clock I bought for £3 many years earlier ticks my life away with its long, slow music. The street light outside makes the room glow and shimmer.

I can hear footsteps coming down the corridor – some returning drunks, I guess, wrecked on the reef of a night on the town. I gaze at the ceiling, waiting for the footsteps to pass.

They don’t pass. They stop outside my door. I can hear whispering and suppressed laughter. My clock ticks. I hear a key card being presented, then withdrawn. The door opens slowly, creaking like a door on a Radio 4 play might. The whispering susurrates like leaves on a tree.

It’s an odd intrusion, this, as though somebody is clambering into your shirt, taking their time. A hotel room is your space, your personal kingdom. I’ve thrown my socks on the floor and my toothbrush is almost bald in the bathroom even though there’s a new one in my bag because I thought I would be alone in my intimacy.

Two figures enter. A man and a woman make their way towards the bed. In the half-dark, I can recognise the man as the one who checked me in earlier. He says, “It’s all right, there’s nobody in here,” and the woman laughs like he has just told her a joke.

This is a moment. I feel like I’m in a film. It’s not like being burgled because this isn’t my house and I’m sure they don’t mean me any harm. In fact, they mean each other the opposite.

Surely they can hear my clock dripping seconds? Surely they can hear me wheezing?

They approach, closer and closer, towards the bed. The room isn’t huge but it seems to be taking them ages to cross it. I don’t know what to do. In my old T-shirt and M&S pants, I don’t know what to do. I should speak. I should say with authority, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” But I don’t.

I could just lie here, as still as a book, and let them get in. It could be a moment of great gentleness, a moment between strangers. I would be like a chubby, wheezing Yorkshire pillow between them. I could be a metaphor for something timeless and unspoken.

They get closer. The woman reaches her hand across the bed and she touches the man’s hand in a gesture of tenderness so fragile that it almost makes me sob.

I sit up and shout, “Bugger off!” and they turn and run, almost knocking my clock from the bedside table. The door crashes shut shakily and the room seems to reverberate.

This article first appeared in the 12 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's revenge