Academic selection is nothing but “old hat, yesterday’s news”, the former head of the top private boys’ boarding school Tony Little told an audience at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.
“I just want to make two points,” he said. “One, academic selection as the means of entry to schools is yesterday’s story. It’s old hat.
“It may work for some children in some circumstances, but the overwhelming evidence is that it doesn’t work for all children. And indeed, not only does it not benefit them, but it actually can harm their chances.
“Second, that we should have a relentless focus on the culture of schools. Whatever their disposition, whether they’re co-ed, single sex, selective, non-selective – it’s the culture of schools that creates great outcomes for children.
Citing social studies that were undertaken 50 years ago, when selective schooling was at its height, he highlighted that only 0.3 per cent of working-class children achieved a two A-level benchmark – a figure he said was “infinitesimally small”.
In areas where there were academically selective schools, he added, schools that were not selective in that same area were depressed in their results and their opportunities for children.
The most expensive schools in the world
The most expensive schools in the world
1/10 La Rosey, Switzerland
This prestigious Swiss boarding school is believed to be the most expensive in the world. Le Rosey hosts pupils from seven to 18 and has been co-educational since 1967. The school takes in pupils from more than 60 countries, but allows no more than 10 per cent of its students to come from any one country in order to prevent a single nationality dominating. The school has two campuses – winter is spent in Gstaad, where pupils can make use of the ski slopes after their morning lessons. Come spring, the whole school will uproot to the Chataeau du Rosey in the village of Rolle by Lake Geneva. Le Rosey also boats a 1,000 seat concert hall, equestrian centre and 38-foot yacht. Notable alumni: Shah of Iran, Prince Rainier of Monaco and King Farouk of Egypt. Sir Roger Moore and Elizabeth Taylor also send their children here, along with John Lennon’s son Sean and Winston Churchill’s grandson. Fees: approx. £86,657 pa
2/10 Aiglon College, Switzerland
With a view of Mont Blanc, this high altitude school lends itself to outdoor pursuits. The school caters for boys and girls aged nine to 18 and is modelled on the traditional British Boarding school. Unlike most schools, however, the whole school body comes together for 20 minutes of meditation on three mornings each week. Notable alumni: Actor Michel Gill, Princess Tatiana of Greece and Denmark, Sheherazade Goldsmith Fees: up to £80,810 per year (upper school boarding)
3/10 Collège Alpin International Beau Soleil
Founded in 1910, Beau Soleil is one of the oldest private boarding schools in Switzerland. It is positioned 1,350 metres above sea level on the Swiss Alps and hosts pupils from more than 40 different nationalities aged 11-18. The curriculum is taught in both French and English and focuses on outdoor sports, with a ski slope and ice skating rink on site. Notable alumni: Racing driver Jacques Villeneuve, Princess Marie of Denmark, Prince Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg Fees: £79,528
Collège Alpin International Beau Soleil
4/10 Collège du Léman International School, Switzerland
Taking in children from as young as one year old, College du Leman teaches a bilingual programme of French and English up to age 18. The school campus stretches out across eight hectares and offers access to both Geneva city and the mountains. Pupils from more than 100 nationalities attend. Noteable alumni: Anna Ovcharova, Swiss, Russian figure skater Fees: £68,960 pa
5/10 Leysin American School, Switzerland
Another high-profile Swiss school, popular for its exclusive ski and snowboard facilities. LAS Students are allowed to spend Tuesday and Thursday afternoons on the mountain for sports. Despite its name, around 12 per cent of students are from the US. Notable alumni: According to Bloomberg, alumni include members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. Fees: Approx £66,700 per year
Leysin American School
6/10 Institut auf dem Rosenberg
7/10 Think Global School
The world’s first “travelling high school” takes pupils to four different countries each year – allowing pupils to experience subjects out in the field. The school has one teacher for every three students and has a 100 per cent pass rate for the International Baccalaureate qualification. Notable alumni: The school is only seven years old, but will no doubt become a popular choice with the next generation of rock stars’ children. Fees: £63,980. Sliding-scale scholarships offered.
8/10 The American school in Switzerland (TASIS)
The first US boarding school to be set up in Europe, TASIS lies on the Dollina d’Oro in the Swiss mountains. Fine art is central to the school curriculum and TASIS hosts its own Spring Arts Festival which attracts a number of famous artists and musicians each year. Notable alumni: American mountain climber Francys Arsentiev, Performer Jeanie Cunningham and Italian-American film director Francesca Gregorini Fees: £63,561 pa
9/10 Brillantmont, Switzerland
A family-run, traditional Swiss school for 130 years, Brillantmont overlooks Lake Geneva and sits just a five-minute walk away from Lausanne. Brillantmont boasts that 100 per cent of its students continue their studies to higher education. Notable alumni: kept suspiciously on the down-low Fees: £52,010 - £59,680 pa
10/10 Hurtwood house, Surrey
Hurtwood house, surrey Several of the best UK boarding schools top their fees around this mark. Set in an Edwardian mansion with 200 acres of grounds, Hurtwood House is one of the most unique. The school hosts just 340 pupils and is known for its focus on creativity and the arts – a recent school production of Chicago cost £75,000 to stage, according to Tatler. Notable alumni: Emily Blunt, Jack Huston, Hans Zimmer Fees: £39,555 pa
“Why am I taking us back in history? It seems a bizarre thing to do. Because this is almost 50 years ago and in the last 50 years we’ve had the same argument again, and again and again.
“We’ve had the same surveys, the same debates, the same throwing around of statistics. And it gets us nowhere,” he said.
His comments come amid tense cross-party opposition to Government plans to expand the grammar school system, with a further £320m in funding set aside for the project announced in last week’s Budget.
Just a few hours before Mr Little’s speech, former education secretary Nicky Morgan, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and ex-shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell announced they were to join in allegiance to oppose Theresa May’s plans.
In a joint article in The Observer, they argued creating new grammar schools will do nothing to promote social mobility and warn there is no room for more “division or political ideology” in the education system.
Hailing the high performance rates in Finland and Scandinavian schools, Mr Little, who left his role at Eton in 2015, argued the way to improve social mobility in the modern age was to place more focus on early years education for children before the age of five.
He said: “If we’re serious about giving opportunity, education, care, support to all children, the best that society can offer, then a focus on pre-school seems to me an altogether better way to spend our energy, time and money than playing around with the old hat story of academic selection for the means of entry to schools.
“The academic selection argument is too much rooted in a history, in a vision of the past. If we’re serious about a future for all our children we need to re-think, we need to reschedule.”Reuse content