Saturday, February 23, 2008
Should we Abolish Public schools?
Worse, was the Sutton Trust Report autumn 2007:
This ranked the success of schools, over a five-year period, at getting their pupils into Oxbridge. Top was Westminster school with a staggering 49.9% hit rate. In other words, if you pay your annual boarding fees of £25,956, you have a virtually evens chance of your child making it to Oxbridge - the pathway to the glittering prizes that will almost certainly lie ahead. Altogether, there were 27 private schools in the top 30; 43 in the top 50 and 78 in the top 100. Put another way, the 70th brightest sixth-former at Westminster or Eton is as likely to get a place at Oxbridge as the very brightest sixth-formers at a large comprehensive.
In addition privately educated candidates were five times more likely to be awarded a place at one of the top 20 Russell Group universities. And in today's Guardian we learn that of the 30,000 who achieve 3 As at school, only 176-half a percent- come from those who receive free school meals. It is, in truth, a shocking indictment of a Labour Party dedicated to achieving equality. Kynaston hopes there is an answer:
I sense in Gordon Brown the first prime minister of my lifetime to be wholly driven by the moral imperative of equality of opportunity. It is also clear that New Labour, more than halfway through its third term, needs a fresh, compelling narrative.
I'm sure he's right but also that his dreams are just, well, dreams. Labour has always attracted a slice of its leadership from the private sector from Attlee to Blair and many of them sent their own children to similar schools. Richard Crossman admitted in his diaries that he was opposed to abolition as his own children were attending public schools. But since those days a sea change in attitudes has taken place. I have a number of, (apparently left-wing) friends who educate their kids privately. One claims he does not want to 'let his principles interfere with his childrens' education'. The leftwing taboo about such things seems to have faded into the background and the 'own family' oriented actions of then likes of Blair, Dianne Abbot and others makes it clear private education is one middle class citadel which Labour will never dare to storm.
Of course I'm biased by the way - I teach in one!
By the way, I see that the Kynaston article has generated a huge number of comments! Still a live issue it seems.
Kynaston says it should be a live issue! Re your point, if comps got the right funding, maybe they couild rival thje perfromance of of the private sector but that ain't gonna happen either.
Thanks for this epic comment- submitted in the small hours I note. I agree with a lot of this, having been born in the same year as you and having attended a grammar school. I agree that the working class people I knew in my Shropshire village were in no doubt that study and training were the levators to success. But there were some who felt this 'is not for me' and regarded study as a kind of eccentric indulgence for 'other' kinds of folk.
The sad thing is that the latter seem to have won the argument in that the underclass- and I do believe we have one- seem not to take any self improvement seriously and have adopted a scale of values which enthrones the self and despises the collective.
The extent to which welfare handouts has facilitated this I'm not sure about but because some exploit benefits I'm not at all sure the majority who do not should be punished.
You seem to end on a very depressive note which is sad. You've cledarly had a very productive and successful life and should be making the most of your upcoming 63rd year should you not?
I find it incomprehensible that the solution to resolving the lower standards of the "secondary moderns" is to scrap the grammar schools. Surely the secondary moderns should have been improved in their own right.
Grammar schools provided not only excellent education but also increased social mobility - not that the latter seems to bother new labour.
There is almost certainly a case for splitting the 'secondary modern' students so that there is far more attention to students with special needs.
The 'one size fits all' approach to education fails far too many at both ends of the spectrum.
As for Oxbridge then why doesn't the government mandate that they take a predetermined percentage from the state sector. (Although Sir Humphrey may well have a hissy fit!!).
Upgrading secondary moderns would cost a huge amount of money- public schools pay about £10,000 per pupil while state schools get only about £3000. I can't see any government forking out that much cash. And even if it did, there is no guarantee the cultural deficits of poorer pupils would not cause their schools to be inferior anyway. It's not so much the schools which cause the gap- it's social background: a child from a middle class background- books, wide interests, discussion and debate- is so much better off than a child from a poorer background- TV, no encouragement of study etc.
But I read that in a different grammar school area, parents spend small fortunes in tutors to hothouse their kids into grammar schools.
I live in South London and I know a great many of black and Asian parents who send their children to fee-paying schools. Boys in particular.They believe that their children, sons in particular will be discriminated against by staff; and they fear them getting in with the wrong crowd.
My instinct is to oppose public schools and 11-plus selection, but neither would solve the problem of hidden selection; also, I think that comprehensives that believe in entirely mixed-ability teaching are not desirable. (But I don't claim any expertise).
I just feel that there ought to be a national consistency. There's no point abolishing public schools yet maintaining selective schools, including selection by religion. And yet, I also believe in state funding for gifted children - it seems that everyone is talking about the Brit school for performing arts - so I am not sure why I oppose them for academically gifted.
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