Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, said recently that private schools should be stripped of their charitable status for failing to sponsor academies and struggling state schools in poor areas. Through my personal experience of the private education system and my current work to provide academies with cost effective extra-curricular programs, I couldn't agree with him more.
My youngest child attends the British International School, Phuket. I must admit, I gulped a bit when I paid the school fees. But so far, I am fine with what I am paying for. It costs a lot to run this little piece of Great Britain in the tropical paradise of Phuket, and the money has to come from somewhere.
We live in an era of profound and increasing inequality, at the heart of which is inequality in education. For any nation truly committed to creating a fairer and more equal society, private schools have no place... Private schools are at the very heart of a society divided by inherited wealth and privilege.
Gordonstoun's, whose alumni include the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles, was reduced from £148,086 to £29,618, a taxpayer funded subsidy of £118, 468. Wester Hailes state school, where over 40% of pupils are are eligible for free school-meals, paid its tax liability of £261,873 in full... How can this be right or fair?
Since graduating, I have followed my parents in working exclusively within state education, although unlike them I don't do the really difficult and important job of teaching. Every day I believe more and more (and from a high start-point) in the tremendous value of what the college I work at does, and of the wider system.
For many students across the UK, the start of a new year marks the height of mock GCSE season. This is an important time for young people. Their mock exam results are designed to give them some indication of how much they have learned in school and whether they are likely to achieve their predicted grades in the summer...
We shouldn't demolish the private schools. Although some people out there probably want to see their alma maters razed, it would be a waste of good architecture. They just need to be forced into the wider education system like stuffing into a reluctant turkey. It might be a messy job, but the end result, a richer society, is worth it.
As a scholarship student, I take issue with the fact that many regard independent schools like mine as elitist intuitions, reserved only for the privileged few. Although it might be fair to say that there a cluster of independent schools that are openly elitist, in my experience to say all schools are the same is a sweeping generalisation.