State schools’ medical students outperform private school peers

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph

The Telegraph reports that state schools students are more likely to become high-flying doctors because they are used to battling against the odds, a study has found.

Medical students are  nearly twice as likely to graduate top of their class if they were educated in the state sector rather than at fee-paying schools, according to research by the University of Aberdeen.  It comes despite the fact students from private institutions score slightly higher in the entry tests.

Professor Jen Cleland, lead author of the paper, said that state school students tend to be more motivated and resilient than their privately educated counterparts, which means they are better equipped for the challenges of medical school.

“While this study didn’t look at why students from state schools significantly outperform students from independent schools, one possibility is that that once given equal access to resources, state-educated students take advantage of the opportunities available to them,” she said.

“All students who get into medical school have had to work hard, but those from state schools may have had less support in place to assist them, and so once they get to university, they may already have well-developed non-academic attributes such as motivation and resilience, which set them up to manage medical school effectively.

“There is a need for further research to explore the relationship between such non-cognitive attributes and performance at medical school and beyond.”

The University of Aberdeen study is the first in the UK to look at the relationship between students’ secondary school grades, the school they attended and their performance through medical school.

All other things being equal, those from state schools are likely to outperform those from independent schools once studying medicine at university, researchers said.  It considered candidates’ demographics including pre-entry grades and pre-admission test scores to medical school.

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The score each student achieved in their Educational Performance Measure on completion of medical school was then used as the overall measurement of success. Students from independent schools scored significantly higher in pre-admission tests compared to those from state schools, despite there being no significant difference between Ucas scores.

However, over the course of studying medicine at university, those from state school were more likely to outperform their private schooled peers. They were shown to be almost twice as likely to finish in the top 10% of class, compared with independently educated classmates.

Results from the paper will feed into discussions about changing the admission criteria for medical school, which would take into account more of the context and circumstances applicants have achieved their secondary school grades.

It is hoped this could play a part in helping to recruit a broader range of people who will take on much-needed posts in the sector.

Prof Cleland added: “Currently the students being trained at medical school do not want to do the jobs that society needs, and so it makes sense that we look at ways to encourage students who are more open to the wide breadth of possible careers to consider medical school.” Data was analysed from students who graduated from 33 UK medical schools between 2012 and 2013.

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