According to a new study by researchers at University College London, young adults and teenagers who went to public schools in England are as satisfied with their lives as their peers in private schools.
The research found little difference in mental health or life satisfaction between the two groups, which surprised the study authors because of the substantial benefits in wellness spending. and support for students in private schools.
Dr Morag Henderson, from the UCL Institute for Social Research, lead author of the paper, said: “Although school resources are greater in private schools, the academic stress students face could being too and so we see each force canceling out the other.”
The study – published Thursday in the Cambridge Journal of Education – is based on responses from a national sample of more than 15,000 people born between 1989 and 1990 who attended school in England and were interviewed as teenagers and later in his twenties.
“Although these methods do not prove causation, the lack of significant positive effects implies that there is no evidence that parents who decided to pay for private education gained mental health benefits. and life satisfaction for their children,” the authors said.
The research measured participants’ mental health by asking questions such as, “Were you able to concentrate on what you were doing?” and “Did you lose sleep over worry?” He found little difference in responses between the two groups before and after adjusting for factors such as social background and education level.
Those who attended fee-paying independent schools reported higher levels of life satisfaction in their twenties. But after adjusting the responses to exclude the effects of benefits such as higher income, home ownership and better test scores, the researchers again found no substantial difference in satisfaction levels. .
Private school girls reported better mental health status at age 16 than their public school peers, but the same gap did not appear at age 14 or 15.
The study concluded that “there is no additional benefit to private education with respect to mental health and life satisfaction” for the cohort studied. But he warned that private schools have further increased their spending on welfare and pastoral support in the years since the sample group went to school.
Dr Henderson said it was possible the increased pastoral support was “just starting to make a difference” for students in private schools, who she said could have received more support during the Covid closures.
“This is speculation, but we may see public school students fare worse in terms of mental health than private school students, post-lockdown. This question is ripe for future analysis,” said Dr. Henderson.
Previous research among people born in 1970 found that attending a UK private school was associated with ‘increased psychological distress’ in women. But since the 1980s, private schools have greatly increased their expenditure on student support.