Hungry for education? No thanks: I've already Eton

As a new scheme launches to get poorer pupils into leading schools, we should accept there are better ways to broach Etonian privilege than calling for its destruction

Share
Related Topics

When Justin Welby was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury last week, a few guys in our newsroom joked that all application forms for major public posts should have a box you can tick, to say if you went to Eton (as Welby did) or not. The idea is that this would speed things up a bit. For positions such as Prime Minister, Mayor of London, and Archbishop, non-Etonians need not apply.

I noticed these jokers were silent when, this week, something called the Springboard Bursary Foundation announced it will send 2,000 pupils from poor backgrounds to leading state and private boarding schools by 2023. Eton has signed up for the scheme.

 

Possibly the only memorable line from David Cameron's speech to Tory party conference a few weeks ago was this: “I'm not here to defend privilege, I'm here to spread it.” As an Etonian, he will presumably be pleased at this week's announcement. As a non-Etonian who finds himself in the curious position of having friends who tend to be Etonians, I am delighted, because in respect of our most prestigious secondary school I have long had a simple motto.

Don't carp about Eton: copy it.

The injustice of our school system is without doubt the most shameful and disgusting thing about being British. And yet banging on about this injustice isn't very productive. The point is to do something. Private schools are here to stay, so let's change the debate. Instead of bemoaning Eton's advantage, why don't we ask what we can learn from the school?

Money alone isn't the answer. I would point to three things, each of them gleaned from my first trip to the school earlier this year for a cricket match (the Authors CC, for whom I play, were thrashed by Eton's 3rd XI). First, stuff our state sector with world-class teachers. That means paying them better and making their lives less burdened by bureaucracy. Second, emphasise crunchy academic subjects, rather than soft skills. And third, improve pastoral care, by getting the maximum buy-in of parents in the school community to help nurture pupils' character. This is easier when the parents are rich and can afford the time off work, but I was struck by just how many adults there were per pupil at Eton, each of them emotionally invested in those children's future.

Such lessons are obvious. Teachers and parents in our state sector know them. Short of abolition, which isn't going to happen, only by learning from Eton will we spread privilege, rather than just defend it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices