Wednesday, October 25, 2006
  Private schools: The real social apartheid?

Why are we so obsessed with faith schools when it is private schools that really divide communities? It's only a relatively small proportion of the a faith schools pupils will actually grow up and still believe and going to a faith school, even a good one won't set you up with life chances anywhere near as good as going to a private school. Yet we aren't seeing any government plans to make private schools take 25% of there intake from less affluent backgrounds. Only seven children out of a hundred nationally go private but the problem is particularly acute in London where roughly 1 in 5 does. Basically if you can afford to bail out of the state system in the capital you do. This is despite recent significant improvements in attainment in the state sector across London.

So what are the advantages of private schools? Essentially a private education means that you are buying entrance to the best universities and from there the best jobs follow. But surely the effect of the money is mediated by peoples natural ability. Well actually no. Research for the Sutton Trust shows that more than half of media opinion formers came from private schools, a proportion that has gone up over the last 20 years, while a third came form grammar schools and the comprehensives which educate 90% of our children provided only 14%. What about politics? More than 4 in 10 of MP's went private including both Tony Blair and David Cameron. And the law? 7 in 10 barristers privately educated.

Private schools cream off the most able and wealthy students. This makes the task for the state sector even more hard than it is already. They can also afford to pay there teacher more so naturally they attract the best staff save for the few devoted to a public service ideal. Every child deserves a great education not just those whose parents can afford private fees. We need to talk more about the kind of society we are creating because it is not just education, inequality is eroding the life chances of all except those at the very top. This is wrong and unless we start to shout about it, it's just going to carry on.
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