This week kids up and down the country have been marching back to school. Certain schools across the country could not be more different though.
Of course, the prohibition of private schools, and all the advantages that they bequeath to their pupils, should never be on the agenda. That would be ridiculous. Aside from the thorny issue of their tax-free charity status, which doesn't chime so well with me, but I will leave to others, far more eloquent than I, to advocate the ending of, I don't really have an issue with them.
However, we must seriously start to consider the realities of our schooling system, here in the UK.
About 7% of our population attend independent fee-paying schools. This same 7% go on to make up 44% of Oxbridge acceptances, 71% of our top judges and 61% of our top doctors.
Only last week did a report reveal that a group of Eton boys got the exclusive opportunity to engage with President Putin (how's that for 'Introduction to International Affairs'?).
A new study further revealed that certain top graduates, who had vastly outperformed others academically, were missing out on top graduate banking positions due to a lack of 'polish'. A terribly destabilising malady which, for some reason, those from our top private schools don't seem to fall foul to.
These poor souls' symptoms include not wearing their suit like they are the incarnation of the next James Bond, a lack of confidence and yes, you've got it, wearing brown shoes.
I mean, I can't be sure because the man has never graced me with his presence, but maybe meeting with the Head of the Russian State is, in fact, a rite of passage for certain sections of our society, where the all-important lesson of brown shoes 101 is learnt.
"maybe meeting with the Head of the Russian State is, in fact, a rite of passage for certain sections of our society, where the all-important lesson of brown shoes 101 is learnt"
I have fond memories of my own school years; my school was, on the whole, great.
However, at times my classes had up to 32 or 33 kids squeezed into them, and only English, Maths and Science were streamed according to ability. In some classes it could take as long as 15 minutes to settle everyone down, even in Years 10 and 11. Our teachers were mostly brilliant, but some were clearly overstretched.
In Year 9 though, something happened. I took Spanish as a second language, along with about 15 others. The lesson was engaging, fast-paced and the teacher was actually able to focus on us all individually.
For a self-confessed swot, who liked going to school to, well, learn, this was a revelation. To think, this is what school was like for some, all of the time.
Don't cry too many tears for me though. Like I said, I went to a very good school. Growing up in just about the most middle class, Waitrose-loving, kale- and avocado-eating city there can be, my state school experience, in turn, is not even remotely comparable to that of others.
Comparatively, I've been the privileged one.
How does the school situated slap-bang in the middle of a rough council estate with leaky roofs, no playing fields and over 50% of pupils on free schools meals compare?
The differences across our schools are, at times, extreme. It's far harder for some to get on in life and succeed, and it is far easier for others. In September, when we march our children back to school, this is often all too easily forgotten.
"How does the school situated slap-bang in the middle of a rough council estate with leaky roofs, no playing fields and over 50% of pupils on free schools meals compare?"
Don't waste efforts pushing for the eradication of public schools or of schools in privileged, leafy pockets. Instead, advocate for the extension of outreach programmes and scholarships. Advocate for all our schools to be properly funded and resourced.
And most importantly, advocate for the true recognition that the odds just may not be ever in everyone's favour.
Isabel Bull is a student of French and Politics at the University of Bristol. She is an active WILPF UK member, and a member of the UK Labour Party. She can be found on both Facebook and LinkedIn as Isabel Bull.Suggest a correction