in Education

Some clarification of my position on private schools.

After mentioning in today’s newsletter that I was getting more militant in my opposition to private schools, I received some pushback and a request for me to explain my position.

the same horizon

I don’t like people paying for their children’s education.

I don’t like people having to pay for their own education.

I don’t like school league tables leading to ‘parental choice’.

I don’t like education being used as a ‘political football’.

I don’t like people moving houses to get their children into ‘good’ schools.

I don’t like selective schools, such as grammar schools, that ‘cream off’ the ‘best’ students.

I don’t like faith schools, especially when it leads to parental hypocrisy.


I do like people sending their children to the local comprehensive.

I do believe in a broad education.

I do like schools at the centre of communities.

I do like people getting involved in the education of not just their own children, but that of other people’s.

I do like the state paying for education to whatever level you want to aim for.

I do like people refusing to compromise on their educational values when it comes to their own children.

I do like people walking the walk.

Image CC BY-NC-SA Norma Desmond

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16 Comments

  1. I look forward to a robust discussion on this when you visit next academic year or when I visit you! I will openly state my bias in that I work in an independent school and I am a senior leader to boot (despite not attending one). What heartens me personally is that I find myself on both sides of the dividing line you have created so overall, it is a draw on the Belshaw judgment. :)

  2. Hi Doug. On faith schools and community – there could be a contradiction of sorts here. Community is not always local. One of the local secondaries near to me serves at least 5 distinct localities and groups. It has to forge these distinct groups into a cohesive ‘community’ within the school. The faith school I work in serves an area the size of a small county (retford up to north of Doncaster) and must do the same. It achieves this by having a community base that comes from something other than geographical closeness. With you on hypocrisy though…

  3. Some succour to a lot of the values you are emphasising here Doug in the following piece by Pasi Sahlberg: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/how-germ-is-infecting-schools-around-the-world/2012/06/29/gJQAVELZAW_blog.html#comments

    Living in Birmingham, I see first-hand how the grammar school system creates a corrosive, competitive, fragmented state system which the middle-classes benefit from. Overlay that with standardised testing and league tables and parental angst and we have a completely skewed culture and provision which I detest.

  4. Hi Doug, 

    I have mixed views on this.
    In general, I don’t think we should have to pay for an education (even if it’s supposedly much better), and I agree with most of your ‘I do likes’, however…. 

    My first secondary school was in a lower socio-economic demographic, and voted 18th worst school in Great Britain. It wasn’t easy to work hard in this environment, and I was by no means an angel. 
    I didn’t get particularly good grades, but I got more GCSE points than anybody else in my year and I was Head Boy (If you knew me personally, you’d question why, and perhaps get an understanding of the school I came from ;-) ). 
    I managed to scrape enough points to get in the sixth form to one of the best schools in the North West (and beyond). In this school, X A* a GCSE was the norm, and a number of people went to Oxbridge (which seemed an expectation from a few). 

    To some degree, I didn’t turn out too bad, and compared to the majority of people in that first school, I’m doing reasonably well in life. But, would I do anything in my power to get my kids (when they come) in a better school than the former I describe above, and perhaps into the latter school? Without doubt. Although kids didn’t drive my move from Liverpool to a little Cheshire village, I suppose the schools were in the back of my mind.

    I have no problems with people doing whatever they can to do what they perceive is the best for their kids. If that means moving home for a catchment area, paying for a particular school,  or anything else. 

  5. As long as a sector of our community can ‘opt out’ of what the others get then what the rest get will never be properly funded, resourced and get the proper attention it should. Gove’s policies increase this op out and mean the ‘bog standard comprehnsive’ which Blair started to undermine is now an endangered species as everyone reckons their kids won’t have to attend one. If everyone had to use the state system then people would take far more interest in it!

  6. Also, what if;

    “I do like people refusing to compromise on their educational beliefs when it comes to their own children”

    Clashes with

    “I don’t like people paying for their children’s education”.

    Potential contradiction?

  7. What is wrong with the selective system?, when the only other option for a parent wanting the best possible education for their child, apart from a grammar school, is a private school. 
    Maybe your argument would be understandable if our state schools weren’t the pile of politically correct, academically poor rubbish they are to day. The problem lies, not with the grammar schools, but with the teaching standards of the comprehensive system and the lack or morals and manners taught to those within them. 
    Myself, 15 years old, and attending a grammar school, could not imagine attending a comprehensive school. Not because i feel my academic superiority entitles me to a different education, but because socially i would be executed in such an environment. However, a grammar school offers a safe heaven from these ideals that people who work hard are ‘nerds’ or ‘squares’, where in fact, its the people who don’t work hard who feel excluded, a bit of an incentive to change your ways don’t you think? 
    You do believe in a ‘broad education’, but you’re not in favor of the grammar school system, how does that work? The comprehensive school students today are taught nothing more than the information necessarily to pass a test, nothing more, and quite often less. In no way do I believe this constitutes as a broad or rounded education. 
    I’m not sure if this piece of journalism is simply a piece of nostalgia from your school days when comprehensive school weren’t too bad, a naive thought on something you probably haven’t experienced or bitter memories of failing the 11+. 
    Thanks, 
    Thomas.