Education Quandary: We pay school fees and taxes for education. Why should we also pay to 'prove' our children's school is a charity?

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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

You say you don't want any of the £48,000-plus annual investment that you make in your sons' education siphoned off into bursaries for poorer children. But think of it like this. How much will your children be able to reap the benefits of this investment if the society in which they grow up is so fragmented that they aren't able to live the full and productive lives that they would presumably want? The best societies are those in which everyone feels that they are in it together, and in which people of all backgrounds, class and income are able to share a sense of working for the common good.

If your children inherit a society that is split, that hasn't managed to nurture its full range of talent and has allowed the gulf between its richest and poorest to grow vast, then they may find themselves dealing with all kinds of unwelcome consequences, from growing levels of street crime, to a patchy health service, or a government and civil service not picked from the best and brightest and therefore not up to the challenges they face.

Our society is already more deeply divided than many others, at least in Europe, and research indicates that this brings a big range of social and economic consequences. Part of the problem is the rift that persists between independent and maintained schools, and it is in everyone's interests that the barriers between the two are lowered in every possible way.

In short, your myopic self-interest does no one any good, least of all your own children.

Readers' advice

Most people pay taxes for services they don't use – if we have a job, we don't claim unemployment or related benefits. So, the fact that these readers pay taxes for state education that they don't use is irrelevant. And wealthy people should not resent some of their revenue paying for bright, but poor, children to have the same opportunity as their own.

We also put our children into a public school, but we never resented genuine scholarships or bursaries. What we did resent was couples who were rich enough to own two houses and then pretended to have split up to get virtually free education for their children by quoting only the wife's pay.

Malcolm Howard, Surrey

As a poor man, my sympathy for this rich woman's whingeing is non-existent. I think private schools should lose charity status because they aren't charities. There should also be 20 per cent VAT on private school fees. As for this couple being taxpayers already paying for state education – nobody stopped them from using it.

Mark Taha, London SE26

Hurrah. This is what so many of us who pay school fees feel, but dare not say. For people like us, these fees are crippling, but we are scraping them together for our children. The Government should be concentrating on improving state schools, not beating up private schools about their charitable status.

Geoff Shrigley, West Sussex

Next Week's Quandary

Do parents realise that from next term teachers will "rarely cover" for absent colleagues, and that their children are going to be taught more and more by cover supervisors and supply teachers? Do they realise this is the thin end of the wedge, making trained teachers more dispensable? And if not, why not?

Send your replies or quandaries to h.wilce@ btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Read previous quandaries at www.hilarywilce.com.

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