Stories + Views
93% of Britain’s children are victims of discrimination. Why? Because they are state educated
“Unleashing aspiration: the Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions” (2009): “…although only 7% of the population attend independent schools, well over half the members of many professions have done so. For example, 75% of judges, 70% of finance directors, 45% of top civil servants, and 32% of MPs were independently schooled.”
The Panel found that the social mobility experienced by post-war generations had slowed. Will Hutton, in his book “Them and Us” highlights one of the causes as the “unwillingness of the better-off to pay for wider education and training.” At the same time, they dismiss the state system as “inadequate, irrespective of the advances it makes” and take refuge in private education.
Private education purchases access to a group perceived to be superior – hence the rhetoric of some free schools that they provide “private education” courtesy of the taxpayer. The propaganda that private schools provide a better education still persists yet a Sutton Trust Report in 2010 found that comprehensive school pupils outperformed independent and grammar school pupils at university. It appears, then, that the superficial polish which private schools allegedly pass on to their pupils doesn’t result in superior degrees. And money should not be the key to access – it should be merit.
Yet many politicians of both parties (and some proposers of free schools) are in thrall to private schools (although what they really mean are public schools rather than minor independent schools). Labour’s Lord Adonis, architect of the academy programme, spoke of injecting the public schools’ DNA into the state system. But this injection does not necessarily improve the patient. Sir Robert Woodard academy, co-sponsored by private school chain Woodard Schools, was judged inadequate by Ofsted in late 2011. Wellington Academy, sponsored by Wellington College, judged satisfactory in December 2011, claims it is “one of Wiltshire’s highest performing schools” yet the number of pupils gaining the GCSE benchmark (5+ GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English) fell from 45% in 2010 to 40% in 2011. The Isle of Sheppey Academy, sponsored by Dulwich College, was judged inadequate in December 2011.
So public school sponsorship of academies is not a silver bullet, privately-educated pupils are outperformed at university by pupils from state comprehensive schools, and UK state schools outperform private schools when socio-economic factors are taken into account.
And yet the 7% of children whose parents pay for them to attend independent schools stand a greater chance of gaining a university place and a prestigious job than the 93% who are state educated despite the fact that the success of private schools is dependent upon their intake. This is discrimination against most of Britain’s children.