THE BLOG

The Sutton Trust Is Only Part Way There

19/12/2013 13:38 GMT | Updated 17/02/2014 10:59 GMT

The Sutton Trust has called on lotteries to be offered by the best schools to stop estate agents and more affluent parents playing pin the house on the good school catchment area. It makes sense. How can it be fair on Dwaynetta, utterly bright but currently residing in a deprived borough, being squeezed out of a place at the best school in town because her parents are more likely to put foodbank parcels on the table than Christmas presents, let alone buy a home in the right area. It's a reality of our current school system that there's effectively a private school fee paid by parents who can afford to buy beside the best schools. A lottery, openly available, is a step in the right direction when all taxpayers pay into the same Department of Education budget. Well done Sutton Trust.

But they don't go far enough. Even if lotteries were implemented nationwide, hopefully scooping up more bright and capable students from the pick and mix of society than at the moment, the Sutton Trust still dances around the bunion that is squatting on the education system: private schools themselves.

No-one pays five figure sums just to get their children GCSEs. You part with your money to buy advancement, connections and soft power for your children. The schools, despite their charitable statuses, are businesses like any other. They know what they can provide and full well know what fee they can command because of it. Eton can point to the list of Prime Ministers that have popped out of their grounds. Even Dwaynetta, despite her name, might stand a chance of being PM via Eton. Or at least from the girls' Eton anyway.

Money talks. But money also excludes. And what we have here is the rub: what might be best for your children might not be the best for wider society. Ouch. Instead of allowing clotted cream to pass from the best schools into the upper echelons of our country, what we should all want, hopefully, is the best to do so. That way, all things being stirred correctly together for the education pudding, we all share in the rewards: the best surgeons, the best actors, the best engineers - all of which we will benefit from that, under the current tangled engagement, we do not. It might mean that Tabitha may have to slum it with Terry; but if Tabitha's life is one day saved by a cure developed by Dr. Dwaynetta, I think it's worthwhile.

But wouldn't this be a disaster for British education? If you take a look at those PISA rankings Michael Gove bangs on about, you might spot a little Nordic country called Finland sailing high at the Alpine levels compared to our Ben Nevis performance. Ever direct, the Finns don't bother with all the malarky of private fees, tutors, gerrymandering house purchases, or lying about faith to get their children in the 'right' place. They just get on with pumping out world-leading education. So why not have it here too?

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.