Letter: Private school role

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I do not disagree with David Aaronovitch (Comment, 10 December) that investment in schools, especially primary schools, should be increased. Where I differ from him is in his attitude towards private schools and parents who choose to send their children to them.

Parents want the best for their children: they want them to thrive emotionally and academically. If Mr Aaronovitch's daughter is thriving at her primary school, that is marvellous. Many parents, however, including state school teachers, social workers and health workers, decide, probably after a lot of agonising, that their child would be happier at an independent school. This often involves considerable financial sacrifice. Many of these parents come from ethnic minorities. Independent schools probably have pupils from a wider range of backgrounds than most primary schools.

In London at least, it would be wrong to believe that the solution to the problem of the under-funding of state schools would be for fewer middle- class parents to send their children to independent schools. The greatest error in Mr Aaronovitch's article was the reference to "private ghettos".

The secret of London's wonderful creative energy is, I believe, the absence of ghettos. There is deprivation, of course, but, by comparison with Paris or New York, rich and poor, black and white, live side by side. Would this still be the case if it were not for inner London's independent schools? Deprived of the chance to send their children to the schools of their choice, middle-class families would relocate to suburbia. Would the children remaining in inner London be any better off as a result?


Acting Head

Westminster Under School

London SW1