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Do Private Schools Manage Better?



“Do Private Schools Manage Better?”


A. Bryson and F. Green (2018). National Institute Economic Review, 243 (February): R17-R26.


One key freedom that private schools have is to determine the size of their budgets, and hence to spend much more than headteachers are able to spend in state schools.

On average, private schools lift the academic results of their pupils modestly but significantly above those of similar state school children.

The main reason is likely to be the much greater resources devoted to the pupils – around three times as much. But it is also sometimes maintained by private school advocates that private schools are managed more efficiently than state schools simply because they are independent.

A previous study covering just 100 schools had found no differences between the overall management efficiency of private and state schools.

This recent paper looks at evidence on good management practices in 406 schools.


The study takes data on management practices from the Workplace Employment Relations Survey, a nationally representative survey of establishment managers and their employees undertaken in 2004 and again 2011.

It looks at 79 private and 327 state schools.

The data covers: training intensity and quality, the presence of a formal strategic plan, the use of quality improvement circles, benchmarking, surveys of employees’ views, a consultation committee, team briefings, employee involvement initiatives, efficient selection criteria in recruitment, the deployment of incentives, records, targets, and teamworking.

A summative score for management efficiency was computed.


  • In several domains of management practice, the private sector lags behind the state sector; the overall summative score was higher in the state sector

  • Private schools do better than state schools in one domain: the keeping of records

  • There is no evidence that the better keeping of records could be responsible for pupils’ higher academic achievements

The findings imply that sponsorship of state schools by private schools should not rely on transferring the private schools’ approach to management into the state sector, if such sponsorship is to be effective as a general policy to improve performance.


There is variation in management efficiency among both private and state schools, so the findings only apply on average.

Also, there might still be other management practices, not observed, that deliver better performance.

Explained by: Francis Green, Professor of Work and Education Economics at UCL Institute of Education

Back to Research Explainers.


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