Over the years private schools have been accused of being elitist institutions that provide an ‘unfair’ advantage to the more affluent within society at the expense of the state education system.
One of the main arguments against private schools is that they promote inequality within the education system. I would, however, argue that a greater commitment to educational equality would entail the reform of the state school system and not just the outright abolition of private schools.
I did not attend a private school, I attended a rural comprehensive. Indeed, if I had been offered the chance to go to one, I probably wouldn’t have, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t see the value that they might offer to other people.
There is a significant correlation between private school students securing top jobs and places at the best Universities. In fact over 50 percent of medal-winning British Olympians in 2012 attended a private school, and when you consider that only 7 percent of British pupils attend a private school, this is an issue.
But abolishing private schools is not the answer to this problem. If a pupil’s parents have the money to pay for private schools, they will simply spend the money on private tutors and other resources which would give an advantage to their own children against others.
The networks of elites which are allegedly prevalent in private schools would still exist and would just manifest themselves in a different manner. Unless there was a full blown redistribution of wealth, some individuals will always have more resources to put into their child’s education.
This is just a fact of the society we live in. Private school parents still pay tax towards state schools and if private schools were abolished, more pupils would be added to the already over-burdened state system.
Over half of our current cabinet were educated at private schools and this is a cause for concern, but abolishing private schools is not tackling the root of the problem- income inequality.
Not allowing an individual a job just because they went to a private school is discriminatory, but changes definitely need to be made. There should be greater support for state pupils who wish to pursue professions that are dominated by ‘the private school elite’, so we can ensure that the best person gets the job regardless of what their educational background may be.
I think the debate as to whether private schools should be abolished would certainly be more relevant if we had a more consistent and reliable state education system. With a state education system that has one in six of its pupils failing to attain at least one Grade C at GCSE, I feel that the attention should be placed on improving the state system, not just abolishing institutions that do work.
The obsession with league tables and educational ‘benchmarks’ at the expense of the personal and academic development of pupils, is more damaging than the existence of private schools could ever be.
Problems that have been created by state school systems such as ‘the postcode lottery’ present a much greater threat to equality than any of the Etons or the Cheltenhams of this world. Why should the seemingly random nature of where you live determine the quality of the education you receive? Where you live is just as random as what economic circumstances you are born into.
Surely this issue that affects 93 percent of British pupils should be remedied, rather than the focus on private schools. There should be a standardised level across the board, regardless of whether you live in Hackney or Harrogate.
There is definitely something to be learnt from private schools. The fact they have longer school days, class sizes that are half that of state schools and the ability to attract teachers who are specialists in their field give private school pupils an advantage over their state counterparts.
The state model needs to reduce class sizes and pay our teachers more, so we do get the best teachers coming into the state system. We need to learn from the successful state schools, so we can use this knowledge in improving the ones that are deemed ‘failing’.