Private schools have more to offer their pupils
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Thursday 03 July 2014
I will put my cards on the table. I would much rather have a system where every state school did their utmost to help their brightest pupils to shine - and there was no independent sector hiving off the cream of the talent.
The trouble is that is not going to happen - even at its most radical in office Labour got nowhere near taking any steps to abolish the private sector.
So there will always be private schools offering smaller class sizes and, as today’s research from the Social Market Foundation reveals, more teaching from staff with top class degrees - giving their pupils a leg up in the world of employment.
Whilst they still exist. it makes sense to try and ensure they take in as many children from disadvantaged homes as possible - so they have a better chance of accessing the richer rewards offered to an elite.
Open access schools could do that - especially if, as the report recommends, they nullify the advantage given to pupils from more affluent homes as a result of their families being able to afford coaching for the entrance test. According to the SMF, the answer is simple: offer all those who cannot afford it coaching.
It will, of course be expensive - £215 million a year if today’s figures are right - and it would be interested to ponder what that money could achieve if spread around the existing state system but ponder this: are you confident of eradicating privilege in the education system? If the answer is no, think again about how you can go about ensuring the disadvantaged have access to the best that is available.
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