Letter: Divisive schools

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I take issue with John Curtis's assertion (letter, 13 December) that "independent schools probably have pupils from a wider range of backgrounds than most primary schools," a disingenuous view which seems to be common among independent school heads.

The reception year at my four-year-old's primary school in east London includes the offspring of barristers, doctors, journalists and teachers as well as of builders, supermarket checkout workers and receptionists, and those from unemployed and refugee backgrounds. The children do make friends across class and race barriers, and the school is successful in ensuring that children from all backgrounds are able to achieve their potential.

However, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the school is able to do well for all its pupils at least partly because it attracts a small but critical mass of children from economically secure, educationally ambitious and supportive backgrounds.

We have many neighbours, of similar backgrounds to our own whose paths do not cross ours because they send their children to independent schools out of the area. I would not dispute their right to make that choice, but it is clear that they are doing so precisely in order to protect their offspring from having to share classrooms with the children of the unemployed, the unskilled, the inarticulate and the non-English speakers who make up a large proportion of the population of inner London, but are presumably not well represented among Mr Curtis's pupils.

If more of his pupils' parents were to spare themselves the "agonising" and "financial sacrifice" of educating their children in the private sector, and transfer their energies to supporting their local primary, it would mark a significant step towards achieving equality of opportunity for all our children.


London N1