Let's shift the debate to fundamental values like 'fairness for all'

Bernstein Simon's picture
So long as there is 'choice' in education, and schools are subjected to market forces, the system will remain unfair and some schools will be deemed 'failures'. Only when local children attend their local school will this begin to change.

To enable such change ultimately requires the abolition of private, grammar, academy and free schools, as well as the creation of a more equitable university admissions system than the one now being proposed. Unsurprisingly our overwhelming privately-educated political elites are not prepared to promote this argument. It's been this way for over 30 years to the extent that league tables, selection and competition have all become culturally accepted. When political parties and commentators discuss education it is within these boundaries; when parents talk about schools it's like listening to a discussion on what's the best car to buy or supermarket to shop at. Shouldn't the debate be about the systemic reasons why some schools are better than others?

We need to challenge the cosy consensus that says competition will create the best education system. To do so we should promote a set of values centred around 'what's fair for all' not just 'what's fair for my family'. If we go on making our case within the confines of the current debate we'll succeed only in achieving small local victories. To effect fundamental change we should be bolder: the UK's education system will only become fair for all when local children attend local state schools; when Government removes the charitable status and tax breaks provided to private schools; when it bans selective admissions; when it insists all schools must be state-run; when it provides decent and equitable funding to all schools; and when it strives to bring all schools up to a good standard rather than a small, elite and financially favoured minority.
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