Terence Blacker: A swim in a private school's pool won't upset our educational apartheid

 

Share

It has been a positive week for British education – or at least for the 7 per cent of British education which now seems to speak for the rest. The Charity Commission, following a legal challenge by the Independent Schools Council, loosened the criteria by which private schools earn their status as charities, with all the tax breaks which that entails.

It is important, say the new guidelines, that charities/fee-paying schools should offer "public benefit". They can do that by letting local communities use their playing fields or swimming pools now and then, or granting bursaries to non-paying pupils, maybe staging joint sports days.

Private education is, in 2012, improving and is more embedded than ever in the heart of the British establishment; public education, meanwhile, is starved of funds and struggling. And here, we are now told, is how that inequality should be addressed: schools for the privileged should share their swimming pools, and generally make, in the aptly Victorian phrase used by the Charity Commission, "provision for the poor".

One would think that there would be a general sense of outrage, or at least of embarrassment, about this institutionalised inequality and waste of talent. In fact, it is those who oppose Britain's system of educational apartheid who are out in the political cold.

The Labour Party, extraordinarily, views private education as a tricky area, best avoided. "My motivation is with the 93 per cent who go to state schools" were the weaselly words used by Douglas Alexander on Andrew Neil's The Daily Politics this week. Yet the effect of in-built educational inequality can be seen in every item of home news. It is behind the lack of political will to make radical change, behind the disenchantment of teachers who work in the state sector, behind the lack of aspiration of many children, behind the defeatism of those entering the jobs market, the cynicism of voters, the underperformance of the economy, our lack of national self-confidence.

Michael Gove is a conviction politician who must know in his heart that, if the scandal of "independent" education is not addressed, his other plans are little more than fiddling around on the margins. It is time for him to be brave. Removing the absurdity of private schools having charitable status, the privileged being given more privilege, would be a useful start.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

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

C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, MSSQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

English Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - So...

French Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: French Teacher ? Sou...

Geography Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Geography Teacher ? ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Photo issued by Flinders University of an artist's impression of a Microbrachius dicki mating scene  

One look at us Scots is enough to show how it was our fishy ancestors who invented sex

Donald MacInnes
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  

Oscar Pistorius sentence: Judge Masipa might have shown mercy, but she has delivered perfect justice

Chris Maume
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album