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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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.