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Cameron's free schools would undermine social mobility

I had a heated discussion with a friend last night about the potential alienation of public, private and state-schooled students at university

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I had a heated discussion with a friend last night about the potential alienation of public, private and state-schooled students at university. It is a tiresome, endless debate, but the conclusion is always the same: no matter what background you come from, there is always inevitably some degree of stigma attached within the world of higher education.

I am not determined to preach the advantages of a fairer and freer system, where education and its beneficiaries are not treated like commodities, where a competitive climate does not stamp on the poorest communities and its residents, or where economic privilege is not fallaciously seen as synonymous with inherent intelligence and ability. Alas, I could present such arguments all day.

What has recently enraged me in the run up to the ubiquitous general election coverage, however, is this talk of 'free' schools. The Observer has dubbed it the Conservative's "most controversial manifesto pledge on education"; but it is hardly a surprising one coming from a shadow cabinet where having a degree from Oxford seems to be a pre-requisite. Oh, Mr Cameron, you may not be "embarrassed" by your Eton education, but under your leadership, I would be. How an intensely elite shadow cabinet oozing inherited wealth and privilege reflects British people on a domestic, national and international level, I will never know. Well, no, I do know: it doesn't.

And whilst you may think that York students to some extent represent this closed group from the upper echelons of society, it seems that, generally speaking, we don't. According to a recent Freedom of Information response given to Nouse by the Director of Admissions and Student Recruitment at the University, a remarkable 72 per cent of us are state-schooled, with only 1,500 undergraduates out of 9,106 surveyed coming from an independent school background.

The Conservative's proposal of 'free' schools, where parents are able to establish independent schools in the state sector, would perpetuate every hierarchical and socially crippling problem embedded in the current system. Sure, the well-spoken, clean-cut Toby Young - the journalist and author who is currently in the process of setting up a school in West London - has just enough pizzazz and propensity for publicity to make it look sexy. But if we look beyond the nice suit and all this "Hail the brilliance of local parents! Down on the local authority-maintained comprehensives!" theatrical silliness, we would see how the policy would actively develop a two-tier system, where parents such as Toby Young - educated, middle-class - would happily be able to conjure up excellent schools for their excellent children in their excellent areas.

How wonderful for Young, and his children, and the lucky area he chooses to paint over with his glossy blue paint. But what about the parents who have neither the revenue, the time, nor the encouragement to set up schools for their children? What about the children who attend other schools in the area where said free school is established, which is starved of funding as a result? A newly-established free school would receive between £4,000 and £6,000 per pupil - the same as local authority schools currently receive. And when did we suddenly decide that an atypical parent, albeit concerned and interested in their children's education, knows how best to manage their own and other children's schooling structure?

Whilst the Swedish model makes individual profits, unlike the proposed system by the Tories, we have to be aware that the problems of isolation, which develop as a result of competition within the schooling sector, would still exist; and, as Mick Brookes says, many of the benefits we see from the Swedish-style platform may have been easily "cherry picked". Education has be one of the aspects of the Tory manifesto I have been eagerly awaiting, hoping to see just an ounce of openness and a desire for a fairer system. How naive I was.

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36 Comments

Lloyd Sparkes Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

I think you missed one important point, you say

"But what about the parents who have neither the revenue, time, nor the encouragement to set up schools for their children?"

The answer to that, is given by the Tories, and its Chairties, and Business Sponsorship, yes parent involvement is heavily encouraged, but they dont have to fund it.

The other problem you say is that regualar state schools will be starved of funding, that is a possibility, but then why are they losing students? I think its more likly that a currently bad school which is failing will be taken over by a independant group.

Also your point about the shadow cabinet begin privilaged, yes some of them are, some of there definitly were not (see Eric Pickles), and since when where they ment to be representative of public? The fact they have extremely good educational backgrounds (and Eton/Oxford are good) is a good thing.

Your final point:

"And when did we suddenly decide that an atypical parent, albeit concerned and interested in their children's education, knows how best to manage their own and other children's schooling structure?"

Since when is the goverment ment to know better? The point there is that there will be the basic curiculum to be taught, after that parents/the group running the school, will be able to influence the education more, giving more educational freedom, rather than the currently whitehall micro-managed system which constantly lowers standard making exams easier etc etc.

This policy is inline with the Tories core ideals, smaller goverment, less goverment intervention and more power/choice for the people.

I think in the long run this policy on education will be very good and effective, but it could take a decade or so to get settled, as the system change over.

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moderat Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

The idea of a school voucher is that it can be used in any school, be it Eton or a local comprehensive, thereby empowering parents to make choices that were previously not available to them. In theory, schools will compete to increase their quality and cut costs in order to attract students.

Laura Connor's error lies in her assumption that the voucher system is beneficial only to those parents with time and resources to start their own school. The benefit lies in being able to choose where to send your children, not in being allowed to start your own school. Anyone can start their own school if they have the time and resources, even today. The ability to choose is not erased because you do not also have the time to sit on the board of a new school.

The type of inequality which may remain after (rather than arise as a result of) the introduction of school vouchers is that between those parents who have time and intelligence to make good choices for their children, and those who cannot. This was the case in Chile, when school vouchers were introduced there (in the early 1980s if I'm not mistaken). Whilst the upper middle-class benefited from the reform, the lower middle-class invariably chose the same school as before, because they did not have time or could not afford to take time off to visit schools to make informed choices, and also because of lack of clear and accessible information.

Another accusation levelled (not clearly in this article) at school vouchers is that it created 'waste basket' schools - that is, some schools get left with all the 'difficult' kids when those with better grades move to better ones. This is hinted at in the claim that local authority schools would receive less money if a new independent school opens in the area. I am not au fait enough with the details of the Tories' plans to know if this is the plan, but I cannot image that it would be. The logical step would be to spend the money saved through efficiency on investing in failing schools, ensuring that students who need more help get it.

In Sweden, many independent schools started as a result of the school voucher reform in the early 90s specifically target those pupils who need extra help and are not getting it in a local one-size-fits-all school. This diversification and consumer-oriented approach, in my view, is one the most attractive aspects of a school voucher system, and is the antithesis of the 'waste basket' dystopia.

Whilst it is my view that Laura Connor's hypothesis has been falsified more times than it has been corroborated (remember, only Milwaukee, Chile, and Sweden have proper school voucher systems), I do share her concern that the Tories are hoping to 'cherry-pick' aspects of the Swedish system. A half-hearted attempt is no good - a complete voucher system with competition between schools is most desirable, along with full support for weaker students and schools.

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Ieuan Ferrer Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Lloyd,

"The fact they have extremely good educational backgrounds (and Eton/Oxford are good) is a good thing."

I understand the Oxbridge thing - that the majority of top ministers have been to excellent universities is probably a good thing. Although I'm sure that diversity is beneficial, too. But your point about Eton is bad, in my opinion. The people who go to top unis are all much of a muchness - whether they've been to a top private school or not doesn't matter. It might be a positive to have a few in the interests of diversity, but otherwise, I don't see why it would be.

"This policy is inline with the Tories core ideals, smaller goverment, less goverment intervention and more power/choice for the people."

Yes it is, but policies determined by dogma are hardly desirable. I like choice as much as the next chap, but lack of social mobility worries me, hugely. It just so happens that the introduction of free schools in Sweden coincided with increased levels of social stratification. Call me a woolly-minded liberal, but that worries me, to say the least.

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bitter Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

\"it is hardly a surprising one coming from a shadow cabinet where having a degree from Oxford seems to be a pre-requisite. Oh, Mr Cameron, you may not be "embarrassed" by your Eton education, but under your leadership, I would be.\"

Laura, you have Oxbridge reject written all over you

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Melba Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

As far as I can tell, the only benefit of going to a public school is a nice accent. And, judging from this article, that's only going to lead to you getting judged as a rich git rather than given preferential treatment.

Surely we should be encouraging parents to take an interest in their children's education rather than continuing Labour's 'Nanny knows best' ideology which has clearly failed?

Indeed, if their own parents don't see a good education as a priority for their children, why on earth should the state?

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~J Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

I think that Laura's point is not that the education of Eton or Oxbridge is bad but that it isn't representative of the general public. By comparison, Brown went to Kirkcaldy High School, Edinburgh University and then stayed on to do his PhD (which I have to say I didn't know about. He's got a doctorate?) His education is probably not as good as if he had gone to Eton or Oxbridge but it's not a shocking education either and it enables him to think about what his education would have been like if such and such had happened.

I think it's a very good comment piece. I'm not totally in agreement with it - and I agree with moderat that we should be looking at how it affects children, not parents - and my personal belief is that it would enable greater choice for parents/children when choosing schools... but seriously, would you want to go to a school designed by parents? Or designed by a national structure? And would you want to go to one that was part paid for by a business? Or one that wasn't? I still have real problems with these 'independent' schools; what do McD's get out of a "McSchool"? And why would I want to be taught by them?

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Johnson-FitzSimon-Smith Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Oh you're just jealous because you went to a terrible comprehensive! I myself am absurdly stupid but because I went to an astonishingly expensive school we can safely assume that I will one day run the country!

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Tony Richards Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

I think David Cameron's shadow cabinet being elected UNDERMINES social mobility and would usher in an era of unprecedented nepotism. Thank god that looks unlikely to happen now!

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Ali Clark Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Not only are the tories accepting there should be an election for running the country, they even elected their own leader. OUTRAGEOUS.

Yikes Tony, I love Labour as much as the next person, but being democratic isn't really an area you should be touting, especially since this is a post on education, there'll be more posts soon for you to sway voters over other issues.

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Ieuan Ferrer Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

One significant problem with the Tories' schools proposals, not dealt with here, is that they plan to create excess capacity in the schools system, and soon. Now, these new schools are going to be funded by Local Education Authority (LEA) money - out of the same pot that schools in the area currently get their funding. How, unless LEA funding is increased significantly, or other schools are shut down immediately and without cost, will this be affordable? My opinion is that in the current economic climate, it won't, or it will mean significant reduction in spending elsewhere, or in tax rises. Dare I evoke the spectre of the allegedly spurious Lib Dem campaign to point out that the Tories would probably put VAT up, significantly?

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Tony Richards Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

As someone who has worked for both mainstream centre-left parties over the course of his short life I can say there is nothing democratic about the Tory party getting into office as the overwhelming majority finds their policies simply disgusting.

I think you will find that the problem is that there is no election for who runs the country the queen decides. The Tories refuse even now at the eleventh hour to talk about electoral reform which gives you some idea about their level of contempt for democracy even with their token 'open primary' system.

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Said friend Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

I don't think our discussion was heated at all! Not by your standards. I think the opening paragraph should read "I had a heated discussion at a half-asleep friend last night..."

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~J Smith-Smithe Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

"Oh you're just jealous because you went to a terrible comprehensive! I myself am absurdly stupid but because I went to an astonishingly expensive school we can safely assume that I will one day run the country!"

The fact that I went to the most expensive school in the UK proves that I am competent at things like running the country. What more evidence does anyone need? Eh what what?

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No Surprise... Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Typical classist discussion that would only be found in the bubble of university politics.

The truth is that education is a personal choice for parents and their children. Government's role should be to offer the maximum possible capacity for the individual parents to choose the right course of education for their child.

Not all state schools, I am afraid, are of the quality that some individuals on this thread would like to believe. You would have to be actually mad to send your child to an inner-city state-school now, such is the state of our failing system in the inner-city.

Subsidising academically/sportingly gifted pupils to attend private school and a growth in the grammar sector is the only way of addressing these problems. The comprehensive system's only proven success is of making everybody equally and comprehensively stupid.

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Sam Seaborn Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

"Subsidising academically/sportingly gifted pupils to attend private school and a growth in the grammar sector is the only way of addressing these problems."

No it's not. Investing more money in state education would also achieve this. Smaller class sizes, more teacher training.....

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Emma Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

I understand your point, and i do agree with the main argument in the article but i feel i need to raise this point..

'a remarkable 72% are from state schools'

what is remarkable about that? it should be far higher than 72%

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Charlie Young Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

I wish they had one [a voucher scheme] when I was in school

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Sam Seaborn Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Education is the silver bullet.

Education is everything.

We don't need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes.

Schools should be palaces. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defense.

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Ali Clark Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Sam, agreed, except for "Schools should be incredibly expensive for government".

While laudable, it is not a viability for any potential government (the three main parties).

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Mallory O'Brian Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Hey Sam, is it your Day of Jubilee?

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~J Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

I feel a bit hard done by here. "The comprehensive system's only proven success is of making everybody equally and comprehensively stupid"? Thanks. Because private schools have done such a great job of making people intelligent and improving people's knowledge and ability. I don't run into many people who have attended expensive schools and are better at spelling/grammar/arithmetic - the only thing they appear to be better at is speaking latin (and then only rarely). What's the advantage?

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Ali Clark Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

> What's the advantage?

I don't have the exact stats, but a very disproportionate number of those getting three A's at A-level come from private schools.

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Sam Seaborn Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Which means only that private schools are better at helping students pass exams.

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Sam Seaborn Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

In fact on this argument. In terms of University degrees, where the public/private school education has become irrelevant, there is no correlation between grades. I.e public school students at York do not get better degree results than state schools.

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No Surprise... Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

There is a massive discrepency between those achieving 3 A's at A-Level and those that achieve that feat in state schools. It simply cannot be argued. Granted, that might not apply to you strictly as an individual, but if we're dealing in basic facts, it is overwealmingly the case. Also, there is a difference in the emphasis of upbringing. 'J'- public school is not about just an education, it's about preparing you for life by introducing you to competition, sport, academic excellence, standards of behaviour giving you confidence, and a way of life. I know my own school was based as much on the ethos of being an 'Old ___' rather than the academic prowess of our particular year. That meant being good at sport, proud of it and proud that you have represented the history of your school as well. There is a sense of pride, a sense that you are representing your mates at prizegivings or representing school in sport of music. It's different, so until you've been to both, it's not fair to judge.

I agree to the need for investment in the state sector, but if we've learnt anything from 13 years of New Labour, it's that simply pouring money into an inneficient system just doesn't work. In other words: what's the point in building a nice new modern school when it's inhabited by middle-managers and no teachers? What's the point in investing money in people when teachers don't have the right to remove those stopping others from working? These are all serious concerns if you/or you know someone who works in an inner-city academy or some less successful state schools.

Improving schools for real means an acceptance that not everyone wants to learn, and fair enough, until the disrupts others from learning. That is why we should build more grammar schools- to give those who wish to learn but cannot afford the luxury of private schools the opportunity to rise to their highest academic peak in an environment where other wish to do so as well. Equally, those who do not wish to learn should be channelled into vocational qualifications and other areas of professional potential.

It's easy to slam and slate off the private sector in these arguments, but that's just bitter and classist. Many of you have no idea what some parents sacrificed to send their children to private school, nor who paid for the education, how they got there, etc etc, so don't judge individuals on it. Instead of slating it off, the state-sector could learn much from the private in terms of teaching, cutting beaurocracy and when examining exactly what we want our schools to be turning this current generation of computer-obsessed, knife wielding ferrel children, into. At the moment, it seems like the comprehensive school motto to make everyone equally uneducated at the expense of those who do wish to learn, will continue for a while yet.

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Hmmm.... Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

"It's easy to slam and slate off the private sector in these arguments, but that's just bitter and classist".

I notice you don't say that it's wrong though.

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No Surprise... Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

How observant you are. Was this comment meant to be some groundbreaking highlight of weakness in my argument?

For your inquisitive yet silly mind, I think being classist and bitter is wrong in as much it makes you a generally embitted person to hang around with, to put it simply. Thank goodness, that honour doesn't come under my perogative. If you waste your time thinking where kids go to school and how it makes them a worse person than you, then I suggest you get a life and contribute in a more meaningful way to this debate.

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Oliver Hutchings Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Like everyone else in this thread I can hardly claim I'm unbiased on this issue, but having attended both a fairly mediocre comprehensive school and one of the best grammar schools in the country, I've seen both sides of state education and think there are a few things worth mentioning.

Whilst the quality of education at the grammar school was markedly superior to the quality at the comprehensive this was largely down to the behaviour of my fellow classmates. The fact that you can generally trust comprehensive school students to be more disruptive has 2 obvious effects; 1. The teachers who were trying to teach at the comprehensive were generally prevented from doing so 2. The teachers at the grammar usually had better qualifications than their counterparts at the comprehensive. In other words comprehensive school teachers are generally both less qualified (in the formal sense) and less able to make use of those qualifications.

The increased micromanagement of schools by central government over the last few years has generally made teachers unable to use any effective form of discipline and has led to teachers often being at the whim of their pupils. It is so hard to exclude students that most offending students realise it isn't a serious threat and feel safe to perpetually jeopardise their fellow students education and torment their teachers (*point to recent case of 25 year old woman falsely accused of getting with a student who was a repeat offender who has now ruined her professional career*).

On the other hand, those pupils who wanted to learn at the comprehensive generally had better behaviour than those at the grammar. In both schools Maths was done in 'sets' where the most able students were grouped together (for even comprehensives realise that it is worth being discriminatory to some degree) the top set in the comprehensive made their desire to learn more obvious and were far better behaved, the top set in the grammar was full of people who knew they were smart and were thereby often smug arrogant twats who were disrupting in a different way. Once you're in a grammar school it's easy to realise you're comparatively well off, rest on your laurels and become irritating and disruptive in other ways.

Whilst there is plenty more worth mentioning I think my experience taught me this, when I failed to get into the grammar school in Year 7, I was devastated, but not for the right reasons, it was where my parents had wanted me to go and I had failed. When I got in a year later I wanted to go there for the right reason and appreciated it much more as a result. The school you go to between ages 12 and 16 (or whatever it may be) is one of the most important foundations for your future education (although stimulation between ages 1 - 5 is probably more important for your general intelligence level), but at age 12 I would suggest you aren't really aware enough of this to make the sort of important decision that is necessary.

Examinations when you are in school are important in determining what Maths set you are in, whether you are entered for dual-award or triple sciences and no doubt they have many other less obvious effects on teachers and pupils alike. Examination for entry to schools is important in a similar way, but in year 6 you won't really know that unless your parents tell you. All children should have to sit tests when they leave primary school, so no children slip through the cracks due to a lack or foresight or ambition by their parents, schools should discriminate more when we are in them and there should be more mobility for pupils to move between schools during secondary education so our education system becomes genuinely competitive, not in a mechanical business sense of the word but in allowing children to have more chances to work at and improve their education by fostering an atmosphere fit for learning.

Whilst we're at it, subjects like Politics should be taught to children when they are younger and they shouldn't be left down to optional choices. it'd probably decrease apathy and hopefully give children enough awareness of their state and the world we are in to know that we are all bloody lucky (relatively) to be in this country and shouldn't neglect the countless opportunities we are presented with.

I think the education system in this country is pretty shocking in places but full homogenisation definitely isn't a solution. All schools require some stratification and in order to give people the best opportunity to learn we need to make sure pupils don't just get stuck in a place where they are unable to learn and we need to ensure that they are conscious of what they are doing, why they are there and how they can get out of that situation if they so desire. We need more freedom for teachers and pupils alike, we need to be less worried about safety and more worried about education.

Elections wise, the Tories always run the risk of seeming classist and free schools seem dubious to say the least, but Labour aren't going to improve anything by throwing money at a defunct system. As much as 'efficiency savings' are not going to be anywhere near as simple and clean to make as conservatives seem to suggest, I think the idea of improving efficiency has more meat than the idea that money will heal anything. I'm voting liberal because it makes sense in my constituency, not because their education policy is superior, but I definitely think Labours track record for the past 13 years make the Conservative plans look relatively appealing to voters even if they are somewhat flawed.

We need to try and improve the general level of education obviously, but we need to look more intro promoting vocational courses for those who aren't gripped by much mainstream education and be less ashamed of their failure to enjoy a rounded but largely abstract curriculum. If we can try and make people more aware at a young age of the significance of their actions, teach some sort of basic uncontroversial practical moral guidelines and make them appreciate the society around them it'll matter less if they fail to enjoy Shakespeare, we really need to reflect on what is important about education and try and cater for pupils more, not pretend we are catering for them and force them to do what a rigid curriculum states.

(p.s. no idea how this got so long, I blame the lat

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~J Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

"It's different, so until you've been to both, it's not fair to judge."

My sincere apologies on being poor. I can't afford the PS6,460 *per term* that is needed to go to the local private school and even after scholarship it was beyond my reach. Alas, my judgement is therefore pointless.

Oh wait, not really. Because I can look at the stats and that makes it better. Those I know in my department that went to private schools had higher A-level grades - but aren't any higher than the others in their degree. Officially, university statistics confirm this.

I'll agree that I didn't gain "a sense of pride" but saying that it's a definite is silly and saying that you don't get "a sense that you are representing your mates at prizegivings or representing school in sport of music" is somewhat harsh. I'm certain that everyone on every sports team represents their school. When I chaired the Debating Society and we beat Repton, that was f***** awesome. Stuck up pricks that were on the other team :P And we did get a sense of pride. When I represented the school at business competitions and at an interschool quiz, I felt like I was representing those around me.

But my point is that it doesn't mean anything - the fact that I wasn't allowed to learn Spanish or Italian is irritating and perhaps has affected me slightly but it hasn't affected who I am. I meet people from private schools who don't know what continent Venezuela is in - how does that happen? Worse, I know people who attended private schools that think that Africa is a country. I know people from private schools who can only type at 10 words per minute. I know many who can't spell, who don't know the difference between "its" and "it's", who can't add up without a calculator. THESE are the important things and I would actually suggest that my top-set friends at secondary school are, on average, better than their counterparts at private schools!

But it's also interesting to note where they are now. I had a friend who gots 11 A*s and in year 9 came overall joint second in the year in grades across all departments. He's now a B&Q manager. In fact there's only one other person from my school who went to a good university and he went to Birmingham; despite the fact that our year were good at what they did, they weren't taught how to pass exams, they weren't taught how to pass interviews at university and they weren't taught determination. *Those* need to be addressed because they're part of the system that pushes state schools down and private schools up.


Either way, the fact that the photograph of the friends at Eton has so many recognisable faces is of great concern. Friends helping friends reach the high places, all of one completely unrepresentative crop.

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Jason Frederick Bernard Rose Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

If this character above me is Jason Rose, a good stint at boarding school would have done him good. For one, he wouldn't have had so much time to sit inanely on university newspaper websites typing over-opinionated rubbish for hours on end. Jason- until you have been there, you really don't understand the point of private education so get off your fucking moral high-horse and accept that others have money, and, funnily enough, as its their money, they can do what they like with it. If that includes spending 6,500 p/t on their children's education in order to get the best possible deal for them, then that is their choice. How dare someone like you tell them they're 'elitist' for that or 'stuck up'. Who the fuck are you?

So you beat Repton at mass debating- get over it boy. You call them 'stuck up pricks' and make a joke of it. If someone called you a working class peasant who needs a rub-down with the sporting weekly (as well as a good kicking on the Rugby field), you'd take offence to that and go off crying about how the ninenteenth century class-system works against you. If the result of this supposed discrimination is that people like you don't get a sniff of power, then tally-ho to that!

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Dan Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

First off, I had no idea that the 'advantage' disappeared at uni as both Sam and ~J suggest, where are those stats?

And with regard Ollie, it is interesting that the example of expulsion you cite occurred at this (http://www.merchanttaylors.com/) PS8,424-a-year school.

In terms of the stats about state schools and university success, Sam and ~J may indeed be correct, but all that actually tells us is that those who have succeeded at state school, the real 'cream of the crop' are indeed on a level playing field with their private school counterparts. That's not the stat that is interesting or relevant, what proportion of people in the state school sector at the age of 15 go on to get degrees compared to the proportion of private school students?

To that end there is simply no argument; if these private schools were affordable to all, every parent (who gave a toss) would be trying their hardest to get their child in there because there is a greater rate of success. Simple.

Is it right/fair? I myself am torn, I agree with Sam that every school should be a cathedral and that money should be heaped on the state sector, but while they are failing, I would want my kid to be able to escape to a better school. Yes education is the silver bullett, but in many areas they are not even firing it. That is wrong and should be improved, but in the meantime, why should my kid be a martyr for the state school system because he is poor? If there is any opportunity to escape, by means of a voucher or community run school, I would jump at it.

I'm not bitter about going to an inner-city state school, hell I have no right. I was fortunate enough to suceed in the state school sector, largely due to some fantastic teachers and, thanks to the Blair Government (which, while introducing tuition fees guaranteed that the poorest didn't have to pay them), I was able to come to uni. Now I am in the final year of a phd, so no, my state school background hasn't been a barrier. However, despite all this, if the money had been available, knowing all I know now, I would have gone to a private school. Fewer disruptions, better equiptment, school trips to Switzerland rather than Southport or Hull, 10-15 people in my class rather than 30, yeah I'd take that.

And, while the system is like this, while private schools/acadamies/grammar schools/new community schools exist, people should be at liberty to buy in and if there is any room for poorer kids to reap the benefits then all the better.

The only real problem is of course that these institutions are not funded by the rich students/parents themselves, or at least not solely funded by them. By all means take rich pupils out of the state sector if you think it is failing them, but taking them with state funding is just a crime.

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Aris Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

"Schools should be palaces. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defense."

For once, I agree with Sam!

One quick note though, the efficiency of 'public' schools (silly that they are called public, in Greece we call them private) depends on the country. In Greece, you get an undeniably better education at private schools (far higher success rates, better knowledge of foreign languages etc). In Serbia, apparently, private schools only attract the worst students. I am just saying this to clarify that the arguments presented here should not be viewed as a debate of principle, but as a debate on the situation in the UK.

A.

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Ali Clark Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

If what ~J says is true, it's the most shocking thing here.

If even the students getting good grades at state school aren't going to uni then that's social immobility right there.

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Dan Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Yeah Aris, as this is a piece about Cameron's policy for the UK (well, England and Wales), people were indeed likely to be confused.

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Dan Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

I also know quite a few people who didn't come to uni despite achieving good grades at a state school. Perhaps this was some form of class-based social immobility. If so, it worked out ok for them. One is now a branch manager for Halifax, has a lovely car, a nice house (with a preferential mortgage rate) and earns as much as a Lecturer here. Another is a department manager at ASDA on PS28k a year and is very happy, one is an Inspector in the Police Force.

On the otherhand, pretty much everyone who I knew from my first year here is either a teacher (which is awesome), or they have gone to work in a bank/supermarket/youth services. Of the second lot, none will be on what my non-uni mates who attained decent A-levels are on (wage wise).

To assume that people with good A-levels who didn't attend uni are un-witting victims of social immobility is to assume quite a lot.

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Quentin Treble-Barreled-Surname Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

We get some rogues in our schools as well you know!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/beds/bucks/herts/8657028.stm

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