“The educated differ from the uneducated, as the living from the dead.” – Aristotle

Aristotle’s proclamation is outdated and undeveloped in the context of modern Britain. Now, the privately educated are demarcated from those who have had a state education. The difference between these two groups manifests itself in a gulf of opportunity in admission to the highest-ranked universities and the highest-paid jobs.

This problem is neither recent nor getting worse. However, the fact remains that private schools still hold a monopoly of the best teaching talent, the best facilities, the best academic and cultural links, and importantly a separation of students from the most disruptive elements of the education system.

In comparison to this, state schools, especially those in urban areas, have suffered in comparison. While undoubtedly many students can prosper in state comprehensives, this is clearly a less common phenomenon. State education is most damaging for the middle-group of students, a majority of the student population, who are caught in-between the high achievers and the troublemakers. It is these students, the majority who are not born as straight-A students and, if exposed to such instances, are liable to imitate the apathy and misbehaviour of the troublemakers present in state schools, are protected from such distractions, and are given the extra-facilities and higher-standards of teaching in private institutions that they require to prosper.

I would argue that this situation is not only unfair, but also damaging to society. It is a fundamental right to be educated in the modern world, something which is a necessary component of every functioning society, with justification of its virtues unnecessary to expound here. Surely this entails, in a society ever-more obsessed with equal opportunities and accessibility, that all children should receive the best standard of education possible, and be given equal chances to prosper from their childhood, something which would enable truly the most talented and deserving to be the highest achievers. But this is not a situation possible with a private education system, something which divides people immediately from their entrance to education not by talent or enthusiasm, but by financial position. This is not fair, and condemns masses of people to under-achievement and unfulfilled potential purely due to the financial situation of their parents. It may be an extremely unpopular position amongst those who feel they have earned the right to enhance their children’s future, but when has the prosperity of one’s parents been a fair justification of having better opportunities – this is just one example of how the justification for private education is completely undermined by any acceptance of social justice.

An end to the private education system would help to enable the majority of middling students to prosper through better standards of teaching and greater opportunities, while distractions and the minority of troublemakers would surely be significantly lessened, or at least be spread more evenly amongst all schools. It is the concentration of trouble students which, in addition to damaging their own prospects and the prospects of others, allows gangs to form and anti-social behaviour to dominate newspapers and divide communities. This is, as with much of the inequality mentioned, a wider social problem and clearly would not end immediately with the destruction of the private education system, but surely this would be a progressive development.

It may be a socialistic stance, and its actual employment may be very difficult to organise, but the abolition of private education would be of much benefit to the whole of society, a reversion to the basic values of education, and a true move towards equal opportunism in Britain, rather than a continued retention of the financially based hierarchy of education which damages the majority by benefiting the few – Marx would have a heart attack, but then again so should anyone who believes in equal opportunism.

Dan Cowling

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43 Comments

  1. Privately Educted Student
    April 29, 2010 at 12:03 — Reply

    I disagree fundamentally with this article. Why on earth are you criticising private schools for producing A-grade students?
    Rather than moan in despair at the disparity between the leavers that private and state schools produce, surely the focus should be more on how the state sector can mirror what the private sector does: whether it be from imposing strict discipline in classrooms, imposing smart school uniforms, and favouring more intellectually rigorous subjects over ‘lightweight’ subjects.
    It is not fair to criticise the private sector. Parents who send their kids to private school have already had to pay once through the tax system, and once again to the private school. And no- this does not mean that all parents of private school kids are ‘rich’- far from it. There are many families where both parents work full time and forgo expensive family holidays, new cars and plasma-screen TVs in their homes, to raise that extra £10,000 or so per year to send their kid to a better school. It is plain wrong to criticise parents who simply want to provide the best for their children and do everything in their power to do so.
    I agree that much has to be done in the state sector. It would be fantastic if state schools in Britain could be met with the same pride as the NHS- which provides the best healthcare in the world- which is also state funded. The answer lies in the stricter discipline mentioned above, money following the pupil and not the school, and better management. Why on earth do schools pay thousands of pounds on having interactive whiteboards and flat screen TV information boards when kids don’t have their own textbooks? I saw on the news a few months ago that one school in Bolton had paid for EVERY kid to have an iPod touch to “aid their learning experience”. What rubbish!
    So- what have we learned? Stop criticising the private sector when they are obviously getting things right and start criticising the government for failing to improve state schools over the past 13 years. Put simply- where has all the money gone?? That’s what happens when you put Ed Balls in charge of anything.

  2. April 29, 2010 at 15:23 — Reply

    It’s pedantic I know, but I have to admit I chuckled a little bit at our privately ‘educted’ friend wading into this one! I agree with him in many respects though. Private schools should be seen as an example of how a lack of targets and state oversight can significantly help a child’s education. Government (and the electorate) should be asking why so many people, both wealthy and not, feel they need to spend extra (sometimes a lot extra) to take their children out of the state-funded system.

    At the same time, private education (like private healthcare) takes a lot of weight off the state system. If private schools were gone, the state sector wouldn’t suddenly see a lot more money coming in; they’re already receiving their tax money from the parents who are paying for private. So we’d see increased problems with class sizes, lack of good teachers, etc. If we’re saying that state schools aren’t good enough, doesn’t it make more sense to blame the schools, LEAs and government, as opposed to schools which are outside the system?

    Do those who want to abolish private education really want to provide the best education for as many people as possible, or do they just want to knock the better schools (and the toffs with it) down to size? Equal Opportunities should mean bringing people up, yet too often it seems to be reduced to placing people on a pedestal, all the better to snipe at them.

  3. Privately Educated Student
    April 30, 2010 at 10:49 — Reply

    Oops my bad…!

    Glad you agree with my points nevertheless:

    “If we’re saying that state schools aren’t good enough, doesn’t it make more sense to blame the schools, LEAs and government, as opposed to schools which are outside the system?”

    In fact I would propose going further and giving tax breaks (of about £3000 per child) to those who choose to send their kids to private school. This may allow many more parents to send their kids to private school who desire to but currently fall just short of having enough money to do so.

    For those who will inevitably claim that this is unfair on those who will remain in the state system- can I just remind you that if we believe in money following the child in schools, rather than just being put into a big pot for schools to waste- then this would have no adverse effect on other pupils. In fact it would do the opposite as class sizes would fall.

    In an ideal world I think we would get to a situation were ALL schools are free from the top-down constraints of the government, and free to educate their students in the way they feel best. If we drastically lower the tax burden on families by thousands of pounds then they would have much more money to spend on things like priavte education and because it is them spending the money, they can have more choice over the school they send their child to. This would buck up the ideas of those schools who coast and implement a sense of competition.

    Obviously there would still be thousands of families who could not afford to send their children to these independent schools, and they should not be penalised against, so why not create a system of bursaries (paid for the government) within the independent schools rather than relying on the government to fund WHOLE schools- buildings and all.

    Lower taxation. More choice for parents. Better education for everyone.

  4. Daniel Cowling (author)
    April 30, 2010 at 14:58 — Reply

    The idea you can justify a tax cut for the rich, or the nouveau-riche, (and be honest that is predominantly who sends their children to private school) by claiming less money going into the state system would be fairer, and would improve the schools who waste money on unneeded things by stopping them doing this, and by reducing class-sizes, is simply ridiculous. Some state schools waste money, many in ill-advised schemes to try and tackle behaviour problems, but that only underlines the scale of the problems they face. (i am also pretty sure private schools do as well, its just that this is not as noticeable when finance is readily available)

    At the risk of reverse snobbery (and its really not, i would class myself as incredibly middle class) i think your experience of the education system is at odds with the reality for many people, including myself who went to one of the biggest state schools in the country and experienced the severity and disruptive nature of the problems under discussion. Smarter school uniforms, stricter discipline, and more intellectual rigour aren’t solutions to problems of apathy and bad-behaviour, problems which are part of a much wider socio-cultural phenomenon. Kids can be brought up in a broken home, without parental discipline or role-models, find themselves in a culture of failure at school, misbehaviour, drinking , drugs etc etc (see the Daily Mail for over-exaggerated reports of such things, laying the blame on the kids entirely themselves). The point of my article was to point out that these problems would be lessened by a more equal education system, one which didn’t lump almost all the rotten eggs in one basket, and offer everyone rich enough the opportunity to move to another basket. It wouldn’t solve the problems, but at best it would better enable those stuck at the fringes of this cultural maelstrom to escape its effects.

    Furthermore, its not that i don’t respect private education, but to claim that it is superior because of some a-priori or organisational reason is obviously untrue. Private education is superior because it has the best teachers (being paid higher salaries), smaller class sizes, the best facilities, the best opportunities, and most importantly excludes some of the most disruptive elements in the education system. The gulf between the private and public sector is not one of mistakes, misspent budgets, or Ed Balls – it is one of fundamental inequality based on the wealth of ones parents.

    This is the stem of the argument for private education, that it is only fair if someone makes lots of money for them to be able to choose to educate their children privately. That sounds acceptable, but it is also essentially laying claim to the idea that someone who’s parents did not work hard, or make lots of money (two very distinct concepts i may add), have no right to be privately educated. That, in my opinion, is simply unfair in a modern society which is based upon the doctrine of equal opportunism.

  5. April 30, 2010 at 18:24 — Reply

    @Privately Educated Student: “Lower taxation. More choice for parents. Better education for everyone.”

    More accessible private education perhaps, but ‘better education for everyone’ is surely an overstatement. What of the families who, even with your proposed tax breaks, couldn’t afford to send their child to a private school, if that child was not able to gain a scholarship? And also your entire argument relies on parents passionately fighting for the best education for their child, perhaps being willing to make sacrifices for it as you said. But the fact is that a lot of parents – a minority (I hope) but not an insignificant one – simply don’t care that much about their child’s education. It’s sad but true. From my experience, in the state system we already see how children who are not encouraged by their parents often have lower attendance and grades that those who are. Your proposed changes would punish children for the actions or priorities of their parents.

    The main point of Dan’s article was that private education creates inequality by giving the richest the best opportunities. I think a really good example of this is that in 2009, 175 boys at Eton got three As at A-level. For the entire population of state schoolboys on free school meals, the total was 75. Now I’m not criticising Eton for being a good school, my point is that a family’s social status and financial situation ALREADY affects pupils performance to a vast degree. We need to attempt to tackle this, and I believe the changes you propose would only make the situation worse.

  6. Privately Educated Student
    April 30, 2010 at 22:49 — Reply

    I’m afraid we simply have a clash of beliefs. You believe that parents who work hard, save, and make considerable sacrifices should not have the CHOICE to send their child to private school. I believe that life is all about choices, and that those who cannot afford to privately educate their kids but work hard, save, and do the right thing should be sure that the state will provide their child with the best education available. However to rid government and school management of all blame for administrating this education is wrong.

    @ Daniel Cowling (author) “Kids can be brought up in a broken home, without parental discipline or role-models, find themselves in a culture of failure at school, misbehaviour, drinking , drugs etc etc (see the Daily Mail for over-exaggerated reports of such things, laying the blame on the kids entirely themselves). The point of my article was to point out that these problems would be lessened by a more equal education system, one which didn’t lump almost all the rotten eggs in one basket, and offer everyone rich enough the opportunity to move to another basket. It wouldn’t solve the problems, but at best it would better enable those stuck at the fringes of this cultural maelstrom to escape its effects.”

    I agree that problems in all schools regarding indiscipline stem from a lack of stability from home. Quite why you think that this is not an issue in the private sector is amusing. Granted it is not as big a problem, but one cannot help but get the feeling that your view of private education consists of lots of rich kids whose parents are in a loving, stable relationship and where the whole family with 2.2 kids all sit around every night and play Monopoly and read Chaucer aloud. What the reality is that the majority of kids at private school are paid for by parents who scrape every last penny they can get to send their kids there to get away from the indiscipline you speak of. Once again- I don’t think you can blame the parents.

    Quite why you think the answer to solving problems in our state education system is to chuck all kids in together with disruptive students to ‘remove inequality’ is bizarre. Surely you need to impose tough discipline so that those disruptive kids are dealt with, instill a sense of respect, pride and discipline where kids learn to tie their tie, tuck their shirts in, sit up straight, stand up when a teacher walks into a room, and puts their hand up before speaking. I know you will be sitting there rolling your eyes at this ‘draconian’ stance on discipline, but to use an unpopular quote, I think that the state education needs to get back to basics and give teachers more power and authority in the classroom. After all, if a child cannot get discipline at home, then it is at school where they should learn to respect others and respect authority.

    @ Lucy Hayes: “in 2009, 175 boys at Eton got three As at A-level. For the entire population of state schoolboys on free school meals, the total was 75.”
    Striking statistic which I’ve heard before. Glad you agree that Eton shouldn’t be penalized- rather they should be applauded for this success. After all, to argue that educational standards in the whole of the country (not just state schools) should drop to meet your perceived vision of equality is wrong. Rather, as I said initially, the focus should be looking at schools like Eton, copying their methods and working out how we can take the best of what they do, and put it into the state sector.

  7. Dave Jackson
    April 30, 2010 at 23:57 — Reply

    We can easily make the judgement that private schools, in many cases, do better because they benefit from being able to pay teachers more (as well as provide the perception of a better standard of inherent discipline, which teachers may well prefer), have smaller classes and are able to ignore pointless exercises like SATs in favour of encouraging children to learn for the sake of learning.

    I’m sure that’s something that most would agree with. However, it’s a big jump from here to suggest that private education should be abolished without coming to the inevitable conclusion that the only way of ensuring equality of opportunity is to curtail the opportunities of those in private education, instead of enhancing the opportunities of those in state education. I don’t think this kind of ideology has the interests of children – or the long term prospects of the state – at heart.

    I think it’s a shame that any argument over something like this seems to boil down to ‘Haves’ debating with ‘Have Nots’, but that is the mentality which the current political zeitgeist has created. I’m sure my parents would have loved to go to private school, but they didn’t begrudge the wealthy their private schooling – they just got on with the opportunities they had. That said, this was in the era of ‘elitist’ grammar schools, where you could still get the next best thing for free, whether you were working class (like my ‘rents) or not.

    You don’t get private-quality education in the state system by abolishing private education, you get it by asking why many parents (including my own) are scrimping, saving, taking on extra jobs and living without any luxury to ensure that their children aren’t in the state system. You don’t get true social mobility by cutting children’s opportunities because their parents can afford something better for them – any mobility prompted by such a move will only be downwards. Fundamentally, you won’t get a better system of state education until the state gets its own house in order, before trying to blame it all on the private sector.

    You can make opportunities fully equal, but you will have to compromise a fair few of our essential liberties (and some basic tenets of capitalist society) to do it. Until the state is willing to take that step, perhaps it is best that we let parents decide whether they should be able to spend money to ensure that their child has the brightest possible future (while still subsidising the state education system, of course).

  8. May 1, 2010 at 06:16 — Reply

    Eton currently charges about ?29,000 a year. In order to replicate this sort of spending on the state sector so as to “level up the playing field” as Dave Jackson suggests there would have to be quite a substantial increase in taxation on people like “Privately educated student”. However, he is suggesting the opposite in the form of tax breaks for the rich. That is quite a square to circle.

    More fundamentally, my objection to what “privately educated student” is saying is a belief that market mechanisms or choice as you call it, actually increase inequality rather than raise up standards. I don’t believe in “money following the child” because that creates a two tier system of (well financed) popular schools and (poorly financed) underachieving sink schools that are left to rot. Funding per child means that unpopular schools have less money to improve themselves with. Fewer people wan’t to attend them. It’s a vicious circle. It not as simple as to say “well it doesn’t matter they have less money as they have less students”. They have less to spend on investments in buildings, on libraries and on IT and given such schools have what might euphemistically be termed “difficult” catchment areas an argument might be made for targeting resources on such schools to raise standards.

    One of the problems with the Conservatives adoption of market mechanisms in the form of free schools is that under present funding arrangements it would divert funding away from state schools as Tory Councilors themselves have admitted. (See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/27/tory-free-schools-inequality)

    As for the assertion that the way to drive up standards is to subsidize independent school fees. We used have something like this called the Assisted Place Scheme. My principle objection would be why should my taxes fund your use of the independent sector when that money would be better directed at underperforming state schools? It seems incredibly selfish to tax some of the poorest in society in order to fund the independent education of the middle classes.

  9. May 1, 2010 at 08:37 — Reply

    Quick point of information – the assisted places scheme wouldn’t fund ‘my’ use of the independent sector – It funded the education of those who were talented but couldn’t afford it. If you were very clever but didn’t have the moo-lah, the state would pay. My school had this right up until it was abolished, and the assisted places students were some of the most talented the school had ever had.

    The abolition of this scheme on the grounds of intellectual elitism is just another example of levelling the playing field not by bringing people up, but by shooting people down. As a result, plenty of students who could have been receiving a better education now find this route closed to them.

    I’m not sure it’s quite as simple as a choice between maximising the opportunities for as many as we can (through academic, instead of financial selection), or equalising opportunities at the lowest common denominator, but while I’m inclined to err towards the former, I worry that our state is governed by those who believe in the latter.

  10. Privately Educated Student
    May 1, 2010 at 10:01 — Reply

    @ Daniel Cooper: “Eton currently charges about ?29,000 a year. In order to replicate this sort of spending on the state sector so as to “level up the playing field” as Dave Jackson suggests there would have to be quite a substantial increase in taxation on people like “Privately educated student”. However, he is suggesting the opposite in the form of tax breaks for the rich. That is quite a square to circle.”

    £29k per year includes all sorts of things not needed to increase standards of education in Britain- it includes the cost of boarding, 3 meals a day, paying house staff and matrons, maintaining very expensive sports facilities.

    Rather, the figure we should be looking at is somewhere around £10,000 which is what private day schools charge- and even here there is room for manouvre as once again this includes the cost of maintaining expensive sports facilities and as well as building new building. The actual cost of EDUCATING the child would thus fall closer to around £7-8,000.

    Currently the state sector costs about £4,000 per year per child to EDUCATE them- money following the child- any building costs are met separately through capital investment from the government. Thus we are looking at a short-fall between the private and state sector of £3-4,000.

    This is my justification for giving parents tax breaks of around £3,000 for sending their kids to private school- it would allow them to close this gap, as well as taking a burden off the state. I have a problem with wealthy parents being able to send their children to state school free of charge to themselves- surely resources should be concentrated on those who need it, whilst lowering the tax burden for the wealthier so they can afford educating their child?

    I believe that parents should have more choice over where they send their child to school, and I believe that parents should have to directly pay for their child’s schooling- this makes schools much more accountable. Look at the private sector- where parents directly pay for their child’s education, there is far much more scrutiny from the parents making the school drive up standards. The sad truth is that when something is purely state funded, people are often resigned to saying ‘oh well there is nothing we can do about it’- I blame not the parents- rather the system itself.

    Thus (in short)- give all schools more independence, ensure those who can afford to do so, pay to send their children to school, though make it easier for them to afford to do so by severely reducing their tax burden. This reduced pressure on the state system will ensure that those parents who can’t afford to privately educate their kids will be safe in the knowledge that their children will be taught in drastically reduced class sizes, free of charge.

    Winners all round!!

  11. Vanessa A. E. Brown
    May 1, 2010 at 19:52 — Reply

    @ Privately Educated Student:

    From what I’ve seen in my everyday life – and heard since coming to the UoN – the few people I know that went to private schools are NOT from working class families. Middle class families perhaps, but working class? C’mon! (However, I will say that it may be the case that we just have VERY different social groups!)

    Futhermore, you say that

    “giving parents tax breaks of around £3,000 for sending their kids to private school- it would allow them to close this gap, as well as taking a burden off the state. ”

    You’ve clearly overlooked the obvious: most people don’t have ONE child. Consequently, so £3,000 a year isn’t going to go very far…

    This is the problem with people “like you” who have been through the private system, everything is easily solveable. “Oh, you just need to do this and that, blah blah etc etc, et voila.”

    It simply isn’t that simple (lol)…

  12. May 1, 2010 at 20:39 — Reply

    Have I totally missed something? I don’t think the working class has even really entered this discussion yet, and – unless I have missed something – I don’t think that anybody is saying that private schools have a large working class intake.

    What I think both ‘Privately Educated Student’ and I are saying is that many, if not most, parents who send their children to private schools around the country are only able to do so as a result of saving, taking on extra jobs and making large sacrifices – I don’t think many of these parents would appreciate being lumped together with the typical presentation of a private school-going family, ie toffs with more money than sense and a lack of social responsibility.

    I’ll leave ‘PrivEdStu’ to defend his tax breaks point, but I think anybody from any social, ethnic, religious or indeed educational background would resent being labelled in a group with the phrase “people like you”. And if you’re going to try and lump all private school students in the same group, you’ll probably need to do a better job of defending your argument than “blah blah etc etc, et voila”.

    Private school students, like the rest of society, aren’t that simple. (lol)

  13. Vanessa A. E. Brown
    May 1, 2010 at 22:25 — Reply

    @ Dave Jackson:

    Lol. I’ll admit that I was being lazy today 🙂

    But on 2nd thought/read, I do think that I may have misinterpreted what “PriEdStu” meant.

    He said

    “And no- this does not mean that all parents of private school kids are ‘rich’- far from it. There are many families where both parents work full time and forgo expensive family holidays, new cars and plasma-screen TVs in their homes, to raise that extra £10,000 or so per year to send their kid to a better school.”

    Admittedly, he doesn’t refer to the working class but (and I’m probably going to be hated for saying this…) most of my middle class friends have mothers that do not work, presumably because they do not need to work as their husband’s salary is suffficent, so my brain automatically went “oh right, so he’s saying that quite a few working class kids go to private school too but only when they have both parents that work hard and save…erm, really, save £10k?” Maybe a tad random/incorrect but that was my line of thought…

    I do agree that, in priciple, it can seem unfair to stereotype the public school intake and their familial background; however, some stereotypes are pretty accurate! Whether we like it or not and whether we want/choose to admit it or not. Generalisations/summaries of the dominant characteristics of a particular person, place or thing should take into account those people who do not fit the mould, but in this case such people are (in my opinion) the minority.

    With regards to the “people like you” comment, I didn’t mean it in that way at all – which is why I put it in speech marks. I meant people “of your persuasion/ from your background/ who share similiar views as you” sorta-thing.

    I think “PriEdStu” him/herself is the perfect defence of my argument. I think s/he perfectly reprents the stereotypical “look at them down there” viewpoint in which those that “know best” present their wonderful ideas which explain the EXACT “thing” that will bring about a monumental change in the Other. This will, of course, be a revolutionary idea that would DEFINITELY work. (Apologies, if that same old viewpoint sounds like “blah blah etc etc, et voila” to me!)

  14. Alex Friede
    May 1, 2010 at 23:50 — Reply

    Does anyone seriously contend that abolishing the private system would actually improve state-funded education? Of course, as has already – correctly – been argued, this would result in a massive increase in an already fairly large tax burden. In addition, you may find that this apparent ‘monopoly’ of teaching talent decide to pursue other endeavors when they realise that the state simply can’t offer them the same benefits as the private sector.

    However, it seems that the author of this article is labouring under a rather misleading perception of private education. Yes, private schools and their superior budgets are able to recruit the best teachers, facilities, etc. but it is only a part of their overall success. In fact, you may have overestimated the supposed advantages of private education – while most of the teachers at my private school were capable and engaging, some were simply hopeless. The real reason why these schools perform disproportionately well is – as the author even implies when he talks of a ‘much wider socio-cultural phenomenon’ in his feedback – is as attributable to the environmental background of its students, as to the service they actually provide. In other words, children don’t merely waltz into Eton and come our with 3 A’s, but apply themselves and work relentlessly hard. Equally, individuals in the state system do the same and they are rewarded similarly.

    As for inequality in general – it is entirely admirable and inappropriate to strive to reduce it, but it may be misguided. The focus should, surely, be on improving the lot of those at the bottom of the sample, rather than crudely seeking to narrow the gap between top and bottom. For example, the Gini index ranks Namibia, Lesotho, Sierra Leone as the most ‘equal’ (in economic terms) countries, while the UK is 82nd ‘equal’, but we’d obviously rather be poor in the latter than the former. (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/eco_gin_ind-economy-gini-index)

    There are many reforms that could genuinely benefit state education (more choice, competition, etc.) – even more effective would be understanding why it is that so many individuals in the state system arrive with values entirely inimical to proper education – but this is not one of them
    .

  15. Alex Friede
    May 1, 2010 at 23:52 — Reply

    correction: it should read ‘appropriate to strive to reduce it’, not inappropriate.

  16. Anon99
    May 2, 2010 at 10:19 — Reply

    I agree with Alex Friede.

    To paraphrase his analogy. With development, the most important considerations should be absolute and not relative. We should strive to ensure everyone has at least clean drinking water, shelter, healthcare etc, NOT that on paper, the difference between the world’s richest and poorest is only a factor of 10.

    In education in the UK, the priority should be to ensure that everyone has at minimum, a good, rounded education rather than trying to make sure that the gap in funding between the most spent per child and the least is as small as possible.

  17. Privately Educated Student
    May 2, 2010 at 12:29 — Reply

    @ Vannessa A.E Brown:

    “Futhermore, you say that

    ‘giving parents tax breaks of around £3,000 for sending their kids to private school- it would allow them to close this gap, as well as taking a burden off the state. ‘

    You’ve clearly overlooked the obvious: most people don’t have ONE child. Consequently, so £3,000 a year isn’t going to go very far…”

    My policy would be a £3,000 tax break PER CHILD. Once again- I repeat my belief that money should follow the child.

    And Vanessa- I’m sorry you feel I am one of those people with a “look at them down there” viewpoint. If you re-read my comments I am not trying to be elitist at all- I am merely presenting my argument over how I feel we can better educate ALL kids in this country by setting schools free, and relieving the tax burden on families. Agreed it may be a simplistic view, but I hope you can at least see where I am coming from.

    But let me once again emphasise that abolishing private education is a ludicrous idea. Try substituting the words ‘private education’ with ‘private healthcare’- it is EXACTLY the same argument. Are you really saying that people who choose to spend extra money to go to a private hospital should not be allowed to do so and that all private hospitals should be closed down and everyone placed in the NHS??

    Perhaps Dan Cowling could try and justify how that would work and why that would increase the universal healthcare provision in the UK!?

  18. Damien Clarke
    May 2, 2010 at 15:25 — Reply

    There are some truly interesting suggestions (and some very well considered arguments) in this thread. I aim to make a couple statements that will allow someone more ‘educated’ in the politics of state education than myself to derive a way forward to educating the masses in order to form a more cohesive economic future.

    It seems that the majority of comments above stem from preconceptions based in financial inequality (at least Dave and PrEdSt excepted). Independent schools were founded in many western countries as an alternative to the secular doctrine at public institutions. Ostensibly, this reflects the current concern of well-intentioned, hard-working students being adversely influenced by those around them. Thus many parents perceive the need to pinch pennies and keep their children in a more education-fostering environment. Not through some sense of elitism, merely to avoid having their children exposed to something they consider not in their best interests.

    From an independent high school background, the main difference I observed to public primary school was discipline and work ethic. The vast majority of students at high-achieving schools were out to achieve. This is reflected also in selective state-funded schools. The distinction therefore could be considered primarily not financial but social. As such, whether or not you side with the public or private sector is irrelevant, because the problem is (typically and unsurprisingly) the state sector failing to do its job. The problems to be tackled, only as I see it and not comprehensively, are lack of discipline, lack of motivation or lack of inspiration.

    Essentially (and undeniably) there are students in the public sector who simply do not care for education, when they can instead truant class and bludge with their friends (who became their friends because they shared the same disinterest in school, ironically after meeting at school). No doubt, the financial inequality of their parents generation is not the only factor at play here. For at least 6 hours per day, there is opportunity for all students to be engaged at any school. I would therefore contend that it is the role of the public schools to deal with this social (not financial) problem, whether that includes streaming, stricter discipline, promoting traineeships / trades / etc to underachievers or whatever schemes the public think-tank can conjure.

    Ultimately, I believe the existence of the private sector is to cater to the choice of those who are able to afford it. This choice should not have to be on the grounds of quality of academic education alone, but on preference and individual interest, such as subject availability, sporting reputation, religion, etc. It is the task of the public education system to provide a legitimate, effective alternative. Again I reiterate, the problem of state education is not the existence of private education, but the failings of the government arm in charge of education to provide a satisfactory essential service. The state system seems afflicted with an inability to promote strict discipline while maintaining a disinterest in instilling respect for education in pupils from childhood. Without becoming too much of a wowser, I could highlight extremes of the German system of public schools (extremely good, but fiercely streamed and segregated from early on) and the great disparity evident in the American system. If we allow the state school supporters to continue blaming and resenting the private schools, it will only serve to increase the divide by ignoring the real issue.

    Hopefully private education will continue to thrive as a preference for those attracted to each schools specific, individual attractions, while proponents for a better public education will cease attacking independent schools (many of whom do struggle financially) and start lobbying the education ministers et al who fail to provide an adequate system to engage all levels of intellect.

    I have so far tried to avoid responding too specifically to post, but to the author’s comment of ending private schools to more evenly spread the undesirables, I strongly object. We need the exact opposite. Group the less-academically inclined early on before they become destructive to their own education, by streaming the system. In this way, their problems can be targeted and dealt with, while the higher-achievers can be permitted to continue fostering a peer-led environment of pro-education values sans distractions.

    Hopefully we will see better educational leaders in the future who are not afraid to tackle the immensely difficult discipline and social issues that plague too many state schools.

  19. Privately Educated Student
    May 2, 2010 at 17:36 — Reply

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7663000/General-Election-2010-Eton-head-calls-for-assisted-places-revival.html

    It’s as if he read my mind! For a more comprehensive outline of some of my beliefs, see this article!

    Little has a fantastic track record and talks a hell of a lot of sense.

  20. Vanessa A. E. Brown
    May 2, 2010 at 20:47 — Reply

    @ PriEdStu:

    I don’t actually believe that private education should be abolished! I just disagree that your idea for making it more accessible would actually work. Sorry, if I didn’t make that clear! And, admittedly I don’t have any bright ideas of me own 🙂 However, I really can’t imagine ANY government giving parents £3,00 per child! And, I think that even if that did ever happen, it would not be enough to enable the large majority of families to send their children to be educated privately. Furthermore, (and you may disagree with me on this,) I feel that a large part of the appeal for some is that their children are being educated away from “the others”. So yes, for some as long as the high levels of teaching and attaintment remained they would not reject a higher intake. Whereas, I think that others who currently send their children to private school may dislike it if “anybody” could now go. I feel that people pay not only for the excellent education that private schools allows their children to have but also for the social status – this would be lessened if it became available to all (through any means).

    I will have to come back and read your comment (and the others’) more throughly. In Hallward essaying at the mo!

  21. May 2, 2010 at 21:45 — Reply

    Dave Jackson said, “I think it’s a shame that any argument over something like this seems to boil down to ‘Haves’ debating with ‘Have Nots’, but that is the mentality which the current political zeitgeist has created.”

    This seems to be the trend on this thread, from what I can see. It’d be interesting to hear from a ex-state secondary school person who fully supports private education, or an ex-private secondary school person who doesn’t. Any takers?

  22. Rob
    May 3, 2010 at 00:15 — Reply

    Oooh er, all a bit high on the detail in this argument. But Lucy I’ll answer your call. Im an ex state school person and I support the rights of parents to make the choice to privately educate their children. We live in a free society and as such there should be the option for private education. I dont agree with this 3000m pound tax break bollocks, if you want to give your child the best start you should fund it independently. Abolishing private schools would be foolish as it would increase strain on the state system as no extra funding would come in but numbers would. Secondly, like it or not we need highly educated people doing vital jobs in this country, and because of the superiority of private schools educating children compare to state comps, a higer number of those highly educate people come from private schools, abolishing them would most likely reduce the number of highly educated people coming through the ranks, thereby causing a brain drain in Britain. Of course going to state school doesnt mean that you cant work hard and be gifted to reach those levels, but its much harder. Unfair I know, but thats the reality, and tbh I want my doctors, lawyers etc to of had the best education, so why deny some people that by arguing for abolishing private schools?

  23. May 3, 2010 at 00:26 — Reply

    For all the argument we’ve had over the legality of drugs, Rob, I’ve got to say I’m 100% behind everything you’ve said on this one!

  24. Anon
    May 3, 2010 at 01:13 — Reply

    I went to a means tested state school, and a pretty damn good one at that. My school was ranked in the top 20 only a couple of years ago and enforces the smart uniform, high levels of discipline and teaches only ‘academic’ subjects, all issues mentioned above. Over 75% of the A levels were AAA-AAB for my year group and I don’t expect that this is too dissimilar from the grades found at private schools. Nevertheless, it is clear that schools like mine are few and far between. Clearly I was one of the lucky few – my parents didn’t have to fork out thousands for a good education and fantastic facilities, even though they come from private school backgrounds. Thousands may be invested in state schools but, on the whole, it is not enough. I believe education and facilities of a high standard should be available to everyone but realistically this is neither the case nor possible. Should such a school like mine be unavailable in the future I shall certainly be sending my future children to private school.

  25. Privately Educated Student
    May 3, 2010 at 09:38 — Reply

    @Rob- agree with the jist of your argument.

    I still believe that giving tax breaks to allow more parents to send kids to fee-paying schools is a good idea. It would ease the burden on state schools.

    @Vanessa A.E. Brown

    “I feel that a large part of the appeal for some is that their children are being educated away from “the others”. ”

    I have no doubt that parents do indeed want their kids educated away from ‘the others’, however ‘the others’ are not people from poorer backgrounds- that’s a ridiculous suggestion. ‘The others’ are exactly those people @Dan Cowling wrote about- the disruptive kids from tough backgrounds. And as Dan Said- the majority of kids (private and state educated) want educating away from disruptive kids as this is the main drain on their education. Thus I think increased discipline in schools is essential, but moreover, rather than demonise these disruptive kids, I actually think they need to be shown more help than the others as more often than not they have underlying problems at home.

    Thus, I think setting by ability in all schools is a great idea, and yes this would mean that these disruptive kids are all put in the same class. However, if the very best teachers were put into that class, and the class size was small, then maybe (just maybe) they could be inspired into learning. After all- I believe a child’s school should be the first safety net if their family situation is letting them down.

    On a larger scale, family breakdown needs addressing as a root cause however I’m afraid I have nothing to offer here – it’s simply such a big and complex issue (and perhaps outside the remit of this article!).

    I thi

  26. Daniel Cowling (author)
    May 3, 2010 at 10:31 — Reply

    I would like to reinforce the idea that this article wasn’t intended as a blueprint towards the abolition of the private education system, something which practically is most likely to be impossible, and would require alot more thought put into it than the research put into this article (im not saying that was nothing but you get my point!). The point of my article was to make people think about the inequality in the education system, and to some degree (judging by the number of comments) this seems to have been successful.

    I think Damien Clarke makes some interesting points about highlighting troublesome children early as opposed to streaming them, and perhaps this is something worth considering. My only, and major, issue with this idea is that it can be quite damning, and is always going to risk adding to the numbers who are apathetic and poorly behaved, rather than actually dealing with such students, and making them lose any ambition even earlier. Such problems can quite clearly be seen in the grammar school system.

    A few ripostes: I must reinforce the idea that education is, in my opinion, a fundamental right in a modern society. This means equal opportunism must be sought.

    I also object to the comparison with the NHS as from my experience while the NHS has problems, an extremely small number of people, if any, die as a result of its failings and inefficiency. Many more people, and this is probably quite an arbitrary statement yet i am convinced accurate, come out of state education without what realistically can be termed an education. Its a very complicated comparison, defined by the right to education in comparison to the right to healthcare, and im not Isaiah Berlin, im guessing ‘privatelyeducatedstudent’ isnt either.

    I also think the arbitrary and rash remarks of the pricing of private education are misguided. Firstly, it is a major problem to claim that things such as top class sports facilities are not important to an education. We, regrettably i believe, have all gone through an education system (private or state) which is concentrated on exams and results (and to be fair my article concentrated somewhat on these aspects). But these results, and a more general sense of being educated, stem not only from teachers, textbooks etc but from an growth of enjoyment, participation, and enthusiasm. Education means to understand the world we live in, appreciate and interact with it….it doesnt just mean 3 A’s. This is why one of the massive differences is things such as facilities, things which can appeal to and develop everyone but especially those who are less interested or able to excel academically. There were plenty of people in my school who would have loved the opportunity to play sport on top class facilities, in well organised leagues and against other enthusiastic and talented students. When they were met with underwhelming facilities many such students gave up on school entirely, truanted, or disrupted lessons until the point where they could leave for good. What they went on to do i am not sure, but most likely the kind of things that many people on here protecting the private education system will also be up-in-arms about, crime, drugs, living off the benefit system etc.

    Finally, the idea that state schools should learn off Eton through its methods is somewhat ridiculous, such a response clearly has not understood my argument, nor the actual problems which face many state schools, none of which will be solved by wearing tail coats.

    In my opinion the inequality stemming from the private education system is unavoidable, and while an abolition of this system may not be realistic, it is also ignorant to simply defend such inequality as fairly justified by the right of parents ‘working hard’ (which is a little insulting to state school parents!), or the necessity of such inequality for a working society. Steps need to be made at this most basic level for progress to be made on other major problems in society, crime, drug-abuse, binge drinking culture.

  27. Privately Educated Student
    May 3, 2010 at 12:14 — Reply

    @Daniel Cowling: ” the idea that state schools should learn off Eton through its methods is somewhat ridiculous, such a response clearly has not understood my argument, nor the actual problems which face many state schools, none of which will be solved by wearing tail coats.”

    I’m afraid this merely underlines your lack of knowledge of what makes private schools good schools. Not a criticism- but please don’t make sweeping judgements.

    @Daniel Cowling: “I must reinforce the idea that education is, in my opinion, a fundamental right in a modern society. This means equal opportunism must be sought.”

    Indeed it is. And education is available to every child in this country free of charge. However unless you belief in an even more bloated state than we have already, then it is clear that more a intelligent means for providing mass education for free is going to have to be sought. No political party except the Tories have shown any willingness to explore this sort of new idea. I believe my own idea about tax breaks is the kind of radical new idea which needs to be thrown out there. To be honest I think all the parties are still far too timid on this.

    As for the comparison with the NHS. Healthcare is available free of charge (at a staggering cost to the taxpayer). Despite this some people pay to go private for healthcare for quicker treatment, cleaner hospitals, and frankly more luxurious and homely surroundings. Fair enough- if they wish to spend more money to upgrade then who is it to say they shouldn’t?

    Education is available free of charge. Despite this, some parents (8%) choose to privately educate their kids. They do this for smaller class sizes, better teachers, and often better provision for extra-curricular activities.

    That is my comparison. The key problem with Daniel Cowling is that his ideas would create an ever bigger burden on the state than at present, whilst decimating what is good with education in the UK. The real solution would be to take what is good and make it more universal, not through increased state spending (we have seen that is not sustainable), but through more choice to drive up standards, and tax breaks to enable less well off parents to be able to make that choice.

  28. Daniel Cowling (author)
    May 3, 2010 at 14:19 — Reply

    “8%”…”Whilst decimating what is good with education in the UK.”
    This underlines my point, its great for the 8% of the most affluent people to send their kids into private education, but the 92% are at a disadvantage as a result. It may make education less advantageous to those 8%, but there would be no guilt in my mind if this led to a great improvement of schooling for the majority.

    Your solution suggests widening the opportunities for private education, which on paper is a great idea. But is it ever going to be possible to send into private education, or equally developed schools, all of those who are willing to learn, and have the potential, if not realised in the state sector, to excel. Clearly it is not, so you would still be left with the richest and most academically able in private education, and a large mass of average students dragged down by the minority who are a disadvantage of the state school system, still dogged by its problems, and till contributing to the social problems affecting society.

  29. Some Guy
    May 3, 2010 at 14:58 — Reply

    Well this argument has gone on and on. Whatever happened to the hippies of the 60s, that’s my question? Where’s the poorly thought out idealism and the word ‘dude’, or even ‘the man’? And when did STUDENTS start thinking of the Tories as possibly a ‘good thing’?

    Dude am I disillusioned. If you want me, I’ll be listening to a killer Hendrix solo, spaced out and staring at the wall of my commune, thinking of other inappropriate ways to drag down the tone of discussions. Peace out.

  30. Some dude
    May 3, 2010 at 21:54 — Reply

    Right on, dude.

  31. Nina (Nights)
    May 3, 2010 at 22:32 — Reply

    Dan- I think that this article brings up a very good point, not just about schooling but also about society in general. People often complain about the socio-economic clashing between the rich and the poor, and how this is mainly due to the poor not getting better qualifications or poor parenting. I believe that this article does present a solution to this- but the fact is that it is an idelology, not a reality, at least in my opinion anyway. If you were to attempt to abolish private education, then surely you would have to abolish private healthcare and other luxuries only experienced by the middle and upper classes? In other words, products of capitalism.

    I have to disagree with you on one point, however. You seem to suggest that students who are from state schools are not as clever or as well educated as though from private ones. Having been educated in a state school for GCSEs and Private for A-Levels, I have to say the only significant differences I found were class sizes and general atmosphere in those class rooms. Yes classes were larger and potentially more disruptive in state school, but I found that regardless whether at state or private, most of my learning was individual and not directly influenced by my school. Therefore, I think caution should be taken when catagorising students. I don’t like being made to feel like my grades were a result of my parents wealth.

    Overall, a good article that was a stimulating read. I would love to here what Marx would saying knowing what we do now!

  32. Daniel Cowling (author)
    May 3, 2010 at 23:24 — Reply

    @Some Guy – i agree alot!
    @Nina, i appreciate your feedback (and not just because you seem to agree to some degree with me, but because you understand why i have written this beyond the unrealistic actualisation of its remarks!)

  33. Student Educated Privately
    May 5, 2010 at 05:20 — Reply

    Although Dan Cowling’s headline suggestion is somewhat extreme, his wider point about the hypocrisy within a society that allegedly promotes equality of opportunity is a poignant one. The attempt to blame government policies for the inadequacies of state education is to ignore the gross influence private schools have upon the state sector by attracting the best teachers and pupils.

    Many of those claiming that private education is actually of benefit (Dave Jackson in particular) are unaware of their own hypocrisy when opposing in the same breath higher taxes because of the so called “brain drain”. But private schools are to pupils and to parents what Belize is to those trying to avoid high income tax. People opting out of the system use their money to accumulate the scarce resources invaluable for good education away from the public sector.

    Sadly, too many consider financial means as an indication that one has worked hard, or that one has saved responsibly. Whilst my father has done both of these things, he accepts that the vast majority of the wealth he has used to put me (and my two siblings ) through private school and university was accumulated by working for a UK bank during a lengthy boom over the last 20 years, assisted by deregulation. It’s called a ‘fortune’ with good reason.

    Even if we did live in a faultless meritocracy, the obvious point to make is that children’s education should not contingently dependent upon their parents’ wealth/willingness to provide financial support. As a society, we ought to be making efforts to ensure that every child born genuinely has the same chance as I did to attend university. This is patently not the case at the moment and private schools exacerbate the problem.

  34. May 5, 2010 at 12:23 — Reply

    The suggestion is consistently being made that state sector schools will do better if the better students go there. While on the face of it this is correct, I’m dubious as to how much improvement you’d see in the students who would have gone to state school anyway. I think that’s the fundamental ideological difference here – I think mixing good with bad will lead to a general degradation of standards, whereas others think that it would lead to improvement.

    Clearly somebody agrees with me, otherwise 1. Academically selective schools wouldn’t exist, and 2. Streaming wouldn’t take place.

    I think the idea of using children as a tool for the purpose of social engineering is repugnant, and any talk of bright children being ‘lost’ to the private sector always comes back to it – this idea that cleverer children will bring less good pupils up if you force them into the same classroom. I oppose higher taxes because, like private schools, lower taxation increases consumer choice. Your argument is that choice should be reduced for ideological reasons. Odds are the really rich ones would just get private tutoring anyway – Call me hypocritical if you like, but I’m comfortable in the knowledge that I won’t ever top the immense irony that is generated when every call for more equal opportunities succeeds only in reducing opportunities even more.

    As for better teachers, I know that I had some very good teachers and some very bad teachers at my school. Some of the best teachers I have had were when I was at (state) primary school. This isn’t so much a problem of good teachers ‘all’ being in the private sector, but of some areas and schools having no good teachers at all. Are private schools stealing good people from the state sector? Well I imagine if such schools didnt exist at least some of these teachers would move to state schools, so that’s true to some degree.

    However, the best school in Wolverhampton is state-funded. It is academically selective, so I guess that’s cheating, but our extra money hasn’t bought us that success. You’ll find good teachers and bad teachers in both private and state schools.

    People opting out of the system use their money to ensure the best possible opportunities for their children. They use their money to avoid sending their children into a system which they think has failed them. You curse private schools for taking about other childrens’ opportunities – I curse the government for creating a system in which private schools need to exist. The only difference between the system now and the system that Labour abolished in 1976 is that then, the top quality of education went to the brightest pupils regardless of wealth. Nowadays, it only goes to those who can afford to cough up or who happen to live near a good school. Do you think this constitutes increased opportunities for students?

    Like it or not, children have a different ‘chance’ to attend university at birth. Human beings are not equal, and there is a very dubiously drawn line between ensuring that children are best able to utilise their potential and simply trying to fit different children into the same mould. Those students you beat to get onto your course – they didn’t have an equal opportunity: You were better than them. If you want them to have the same chance as you to attend university, you’re going to have to make an easier course. We can make sure everybody has equal chance to go to university, but these aren’t potential doctors we are talking about here – we’re talking about a vast swathe of graduates who are coming out of courses which are not respected and do not provide appropriate transferable skills. You’ll have a hard job convincing me that’s a good thing.

    We’re spending so much time talking about equal opportunities in education, I think we have stopped caring about the opportunities we are supposed to be providing in the first place.

  35. Student Educated Privately
    May 6, 2010 at 06:19 — Reply

    “Like it or not, children have a different ‘chance’ to attend university at birth. Human beings are not equal, and there is a very dubiously drawn line between ensuring that children are best able to utilise their potential and simply trying to fit different children into the same mould. Those students you beat to get onto your course – they didn’t have an equal opportunity: You were better than them. If you want them to have the same chance as you to attend university, you’re going to have to make an easier course. ”

    I went to a faith school for my primary education. No academic selection took place and yet almost everyone who was within my class is now at university. The private school I went to had an easy (almost pointless) entrance exam, which you could pretty much bypass if you had enough money. Again the vast majority of people in my year went to university.

    Now either the vast majority of people I was educated alongside were coincidentally “better from birth” or a good education significantly increases your academic achievement. I think it’s clear which is more likely.

  36. May 6, 2010 at 07:45 — Reply

    It would be bit silly of me to try and argue that education doesn’t affect people’s ability. It’s safe to say that the education you receive has quite a large effect on your academic acheivement! The point I was making was that, at birth, people aren’t blank slates – they have aptitudes for different things. Nature has a big role, just as nurture does.

  37. V
    May 7, 2010 at 13:09 — Reply

    @Dave Jackson – I agree.

    People are different. I personally went to a private school, and I felt that some of my teachers were awful, spending my sixth form years teaching myself Chaucer and getting a tutor from outside school to help me comprehend American race riots! At the same time, I know people who went to the local state school, which is not known as anything special, and came out with better grades than me, solely based on the education they got within their school walls. Yes, private schools do create an in-balance, where it seems unfair that just because someone can afford to pay fees they should get a ‘better’ education, but just because it is private does not mean that they are getting a better deal! If someone isn’t going to work hard, it doesn’t make a difference if they’re at a private or state school (and believe me, I have witnessed people going from one to the other and not changing in the slightest), if someone is naturally smarter than someone else, it is the same thing, and just because a teacher teached is a private school, it does not mean they’re any better (private schools have their own selection processes for teachers which can sometimes be easier than the government imposed ones on state school), it is just more likely that they prefer the slightly higher salary and better perks.

    At the end of the day though, people have to accept that there will always be inequality. As we move away from education and into work, most of us will be faced with that very well known saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, and we can bitch and moan as much as we like, or we can embrace the fact that we live in such a society, and just get on with it and work as hard as we personally can.

  38. Student Educated Privately
    May 8, 2010 at 02:01 — Reply

    I’m not sure what the significance is supposed to be of the claim that there are bad teachers at private schools and good pupils in state schools. Accepting that there are poor teachers in good schools and differing aptitudes between pupils doesn’t change the fact that the average performance of someone in a private school is generally far higher than the performance of of someone in a state school.

    This isn’t because, through some happy coincidence, children with richer parents have a higher aptitude for academic study, it’s because they’ve bought themselves a comfortably more effective educative environment for fulfilling their potential, whatever that is.

  39. State school student
    May 8, 2010 at 02:05 — Reply

    Some of the generalisations on this thread are truly awful and yes, i mean the comments about ‘tailcoats’ as much as those about ‘disruptive state school pupils’. The key issue here is to try and bring about a system that provides the best possible education to all children, irrelevant of their wealth or even their ability, yet a lot of the comments on this thread are full of remarks about the ‘bad’ students from state schools and the ‘good’ students from private schools, the assumption that low ability automatically equates with disruptive behaviour and that state schools should separate according to ability in order to make sure the clever kids get a good education.

    This whole idea that children can be separated into groups such as ‘parents worked hard to get them into a private school’ and ‘parents who didn’t work hard and thats obviously why they aren’t at a private school’ or kids who want to learn and kids who dont is utterly ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as the claim that a £3,000 tax break per child for those who send their kids to private school would help ALL families to send their kids to good schools, it wouldn’t, it would just help the middle class parents who earn enough to make up the extra amount or even earn enough to pay tax in the first place!!

    A child’s education should not be based on where they live, how much their parents earn, or even how hard working their parents are or how much they are interested in their child’s education. You are probably expecting me to agree with the idea that private schools should be abolished at this point, but i don’t subscribe to this view. What i do think is that it is views such as the ones expressed in this thread that see society and CHILDREN as almost innately different: good and bad, able and unable, disruptive and well behaved and between those whose parents care and those whose parents don’t is what continues this inequality which keeps good teachers away from poor schools and keeps trying to get policies through that help more middle class parents send their kids to private schools.

    Comments such as the ones about how those parents who work hard should be entitled to send their kids to private schools strike a particular chord for me: My parents have both worked extremely hard in very difficult jobs but would never have had enough money to send me and my siblings to a private school despite their interest in our education, so I find some of the claims here, that parents who work hard should be able and even helped, send their kids to private schools, utterly ridiculous as this not only equates working hard with earning enough money to do this but also that the kids in state schools must just have parents who didn’t work hard enough.

    I agree that the state isn’t doing enough for education, but education isn’t provided in a bubble, it is intrinsically linked to various other issues within society so i don’t think we can expect it to improve just by making private schools more accessible, we need a complete change of the way we look at inequality in our society.

    Research has found that if we compare two kids, one at a private school and one at a state school with the state school pupil being brighter at the age of seven, by the age of 11 the private school pupil would have outperformed their previously brighter state school counterpart. That state school pupil could have been the Doctor or the top graduate that has been described here by Rob and Dave Jackson, had he been given the education he is entitled to, but the inequality that is rife in our society worked against him. This kind of results shows how damaging the inequality is in our many systems. But, no, im not saying that we should be keeping the brighter or the richer or the private school student from achieving to reduce inequality, im saying that its the very acceptance of a large amount of inequality in our society, seen in this thread here, that causes these results to be repeated over and over again, child after child after child.

  40. Student Educated Privately
    May 8, 2010 at 02:07 — Reply

    Oh, and as for the old “there will always be inequality, deal with it” chesnut, how and why should we embrace a society that is both patently unjust and constantly changing? Inequality is regrettably inevitable, but surely there ought to be some limits to it? Especially when we could easily reduce it if we accepted that we don’t live in a meritocracy.

  41. May 8, 2010 at 07:30 — Reply

    @State school student: Hear hear. I hate how so many people equate wealth with worth; not being able to shell out £30k a year for private schooling does not make you a ‘bad parent’ and it’s ridiculous that it should be assumed so. To be honest I think parents such as yours actually give a better example; the salary should not be your only consideration when taking a job, and those who equate pay grade with job worth are setting the example that money is more important than anything else.

    @V: “People have to accept that there will always be inequality. As we move away from education and into work, most of us will be faced with that very well known saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, and we can bitch and moan as much as we like, or we can embrace the fact that we live in such a society, and just get on with it and work as hard as we personally can.”

    I can see we live in an unjust and unequal society. There’s no way I’m going to ’embrace’ that, nor am I merely going to bitch about it. Yes people have told me that who I know is more important in the career I wish to go into; if I’d given up when I’d heard that then I would be unemployed upon graduation. I’m not going to ’embrace’ the idea that any career should be restricted to an Old Boy’s Club and frankly it makes me really angry that anyone should suggest so.

  42. May 8, 2010 at 15:33 — Reply

    I think the whole ‘hard working parent’ issue has only ever been raised just to emphasise the point that there are plenty of people who go to private schools not because they are aristocrats inheriting huge amounts of wealth, but because their parents have had to take extra jobs and make sacrifices to ensure that they could go. In no way does that suggest that people who don’t earn enough to send their kids to private school don’t work hard enough, and it certainly doesn’t suggest that they are bad parents. I’d have got a deserved clip round the head if I tried telling my granddad that his time down the pit didn’t constitute hard work!

    ‘State School Student’ tells us of the comprehensive student who could have been a doctor had he gone to a private school. I might counter with the story of a privately educated student who might ‘not’ be a doctor if he didn’t have access to the “comfortably more effective educative environment” described by ‘Student Educated Privately’. He’s talking about the problems created by an unequal system, I’m talking about the perils of forced equality. Both are significant issues in society today.

    Would we solve this problem by eliminating choice, and ensuring that all the teachers and students were in the same system? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s one hell of a pandora’s box to open on dogmatic grounds without a clear indication of the consequences.

    I don’t massively advocate private schools. I think that it’s wrong for children to be segregated on the grounds of wealth because that stunts social mobility, social mobility without which I probably wouldn’t be talking about this today. What I do prefer (and i’ve had/will have plenty of criticism for this) is academic selection, although I know this isn’t the thread to go into a big discussion of that. However, as long as it’s generally accepted that academic selection should be discouraged, I’ll still back private schools because they represent an escape route from a system which I don’t agree with.

  43. Student Educated Privately
    May 8, 2010 at 23:21 — Reply

    “State School Student tells us of the comprehensive student who could have been a doctor had he gone to a private school. I might counter with the story of a privately educated student who might ‘not’ be a doctor if he didn’t have access to the “comfortably more effective educative environment” described by Student Educated Privately. He’s talking about the problems created by an unequal system, I’m talking about the perils of forced equality. Both are significant issues in society today. Would we solve this problem by eliminating choice, and ensuring that all the teachers and students were in the same system? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s one hell of a pandora’s box to open on dogmatic grounds without a clear indication of the consequences.”

    I think the proposal within this article suffers credibility because it lacks any detail. Abolishing private schools alone would, like you say, just bring the people at the top down and nobody up. It would also be very difficult to do, since as has been mentioned, private tuition will always be readily available.

    If we accept that the demand for private schools is high as a result of the low quality of state funded schools however, then improving the quality of state schools will reduce the demand for private schools. If you could get state schools to somewhere near the same level, then abolishing private schools would be of limited consequence.

    This would not only improve social mobility within less affluent groups, but would save those sending children to private schools tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds. This would mean that more money would be spent within other parts of the economy, we’d probably have more teachers, etc. etc.

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