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

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower