Was this part of the Coalition agreement? That not only do you have to vote for all the Conservatives policies, but you have to send your kids to the same schools as them as well? Perhaps you think it is different for your family with you being a major public figure (although after the election that may not be such an issue).
Of course, you must absolutely do what is best for your children. If you think the best education is simply getting 13 grade-A GCSEs, then send them to the private school you went to. They would probably also get those grades at a good state school too, though horror of horrors, they might get one grade B. But you and your wife are highly educated people. You are high earners, you speak many languages, you travel, you know lots of important people and Lembit Öpik as well. That has already given your kids a huge headstart; that will be a far greater factor in how they fare in life than your choice of secondary school.
So how about giving your kids an all-round education? They would gain a deep understanding of how our society fits together; how opportunity is still dictated by social class, income and parental education. They would get to know kids from other races and religions. (And no, the son of the Nigerian ambassador does not make a private school “mixed”, no matter how many times they use his photo in the prospectus.)
If you choose to pay, you will be depriving them of all this, you will be keeping them in a hermetically sealed bubble of privilege where the only injustice and inequality is that Piers has a home-cinema in his basement and your boys don’t. Your children already won the education lottery when they were born into your family. Now they need to experience something beyond the values of Dad who went to Westminster and spends all day with other public school boys.
But if you pay, you will also being doing yourself a disservice. Up till now, the education has been pretty much one way – you taught your children to walk, to talk, and that when Dad says something he really means it. (OK, two out of three’s not bad.) But around the point when they start secondary school, something wonderful happens. Your children start educating you. They pick up your lazy assumptions, they contradict you with direct evidence from their own lives, they see injustice and wrong-doing and it affects their world view and your own.
But if you send them private, not only will their education be curtailed, your own will as well. So do what’s best for your family Nick. Send them to a nearby state school. And it might just help the whole country too.
John O’Farrell’s most recent novel is ‘The Man Who Forgot His Wife’
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