Why is there a presumption that providing private education is doing the best for your child?

Helen Flynn's picture
I could not believe this true story from a very old friend of mine about a very well known public school. Just shows how completely non-child-centred public schools really are!

Her son (aged 15) smoked a spliff with a friend at his friend's house in the half term holiday. A few weeks later, the friend was found to have dope at school and was hauled into the Principal's office who demanded to know who else had shared his habit with him. After a while he owned up to my friend's son having smoked with him at home, whereupon my friend's son was summarily expelled, even though he had never smoked on the school's premises! Not only that, because he had a scholarship, giving them 20% off the £28,000 they pay p.a. for school fees, they are now required to pay back retrospectively the 20% saving they have made over the last several years!

The lack of accountability and particularly lack of duty of care to the child is staggering! Imagine that happening in a state school?

I have heard similar depressing tales of children being ejected from high-achieving private schools in year 12 because their GCSEs are not good enough. All these schools care about are their own reputations, not the children in their care.

I wish the media shined more of a searching light on practices at private schools, as it might give parents a bit of a wake-up call. Sadly our right wing media has no such interest, determined as it is to malign state schools at any opportunity.

Also sad that we are more concerned with results in our society than how we treat each other as fellow humans beings with all our issues, emotions, capabilities and idiosyncrasies.

The sad postscript is that rather than risk their son at a state school, they are now sending him to yet another well known public school.
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Sharon's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 22:42

The practice of kicking kids out in year 12 when their GCSEs aren't up to scratch isn't only found at private schools - some of the more exclusive state schools do the same. At London Oratory and Cardinal Vaughan, for instance, pupils must apply separately to the 6th form, with only those with high grades accepted, and C grade students encouraged to move to a sixth-form college.

FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 24/02/2013 - 21:37

Not true about LOS: any pupil who can benefit from A-level courses provided and the ethos of the school is welcome, even though it is known that some will do well to get low grades, such as D or E. I think you may be right, however, about Cardinal Vaughan.

Penny's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 23:33

I would say that the principal was protecting and caring for all his other pupils by reducing the likelihood of their coming into contact with drugs. To me that IS child-centred and remaining parents would consider it part of what they were paying for that their children had been shielded form contact with drugs. (And seen the consequences should they decide to risk it). The school would certainly have a clear rule about drug use.

Nigel Ford's picture
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 08:55

Helen, I've made my views about private schools clear as illustrated by clicking on the private schools category.

But your story will resonate why many parents opt for the private sector and would justify their choice. I do however think it's wrong for the school to try and reclaim retrospectively the scholarship discount unless it has been legislated into the school laws.

I can recall once reading with scorn an account of some spoilt rich kid who justifiably got expelled from his private school so his parents sent him to another private school and in this case I think the parents are wrong going down the same route. They should try giving their son a few boundaries instead.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 11:56

Private schools are unaccountable; they can do more or less what they want with a pupil. I think the bigger point is that the teaching and learning in many private schools is quite poor, with often a third of pupils not getting good GCSEs (see Nigel's previous post). This doesn't even count the private schools where pupils are bumped off the roll before they can spoil the exam stats. Parents are much better off supporting their local school and these parents would have been much better off sending their child to a state school where he may have learned some boundaries.

Helen Flynn's picture
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 13:43

Re: Penny's comment above, of course every school should have a drugs policy, but I still think that this reaction is way over the top. Particularly as it is arguable that boarding schools are even more in a position of being 'in loco parentis'.

Surely rather than just get of the lad in case the school's reputation was tarnished and ability to lure the cash of wealthy individuals was reduced, a more child-centred approach would have been to try to help him kick the habit?

Certainly at schools where I am and have been a governor, it is not so much the use of dope that is the really serious issue (though it is always taken very seriously), as children who deal in drugs--a far more serious issue.

Will Green's picture
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 15:31

If this site, and indeed movement, wants to be taken seriously, then this sort of anecdotal, unsubstantiated evidence which 'proves' nothing at all should be avoided.

Francis - nice segue into your overall argument. Though I'm no fan of private schools myself, I can quite easily imagine a parent preferring a school directly accountable to them as the fee-payer rather than one accountable to an unwieldy local authority and, ultimately, central government.

Also, suggesting that drug use at school is a problem exclusive to the private sector is preposterous.

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 15:36

Most schools in the state sector are directly accountable to parents via their governing bodies - these are usually overlooked in the rush to perpetuate the myth that schools are 'run' by local authorities. Happily for parents in the state sector, we also have more rights and the sort of covert exclusion that the private sector favours, is much harder.
I don't agree either that anecdotal evidence is meaningless especially as, when it comes to private schools, hard facts are often hard to come by!

FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 24/02/2013 - 21:39

I agree with your riposte to this anecdote being used to condemn a whole sector.

FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 24/02/2013 - 21:42

Parents elect a handful of governors who then do as they please for their term of office, while the others are LEA appointments, a couple of teachers and various local busy-bodies and retired worthies with not much else to do.

Will Green's picture
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 16:29

I didn't say the anecdote was meaningless. It has convinced Helen which is fair enough, but it doesn't prove that 'public schools are completely non-child-centred' which is what she claims.

And whilst your point about hard facts and private schools is a fair one, anecdotal evidence is no substitute. Evidence about alien lifeforms is hard to come by, but that doesn't mean we believe anecdotes from people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. (I am neither suggesting that people at private schools are aliens, nor that Helen has been abducted, incidentally). I fully support any movement to ensure more transparency in the private sector.

Finally, yes, you're right about parents and governing bodies and I certainly didn't mean to suggest that LEAs run state schools. I was just responding to Francis' suggestion that private schools aren't accountable. They are accountable - to parents who pay for their children to attend. As I said, it wouldn't be my choice, but I can imagine some parents who would prefer it that way.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 18:04

In response to Will, I would like to explain my point further; private schools aren't particularly accountable to the parents who pay for them. They are often very quick to remove "trouble-makers" who might question the quality of education on offer and don't have to answer to anybody if they do so. This is quite unlike the state sector which is bound numerous laws when excluding children. Many private schools admit no parents or teachers on their governing bodies. Decisions are taken behind closed doors. Private schools survive by "reputation"; which is gained by ruthlessly creaming off the best children and maintaining so-called "good results". In my own personal experience both as a pupil at a private school and parent who sent his child to a private school for a while, I've seen first hand how the private sector survives by maintaining the facade of being a "good school". Ironically, because parents are paying they don't want to believe that the quality of education might be sub-standard and often believe the myths perpetuated by a largely private-educated media that all state schools are rubbish.

Alice's picture
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 20:08

I am aware that this is more 'anecdotal' evidence and therefore by many peoples (including often my own) standard irrelevant. But...

From my own personal experience - as a state school student with friends from a variety of education backgrounds - it is those who have attended more selective or private schools (where the students have far far more money) that drugs are a more prevalent issue, especially those deemed to be more harmful.

The difference for many parents is that by sending their child to a private school they can pretend that sort of drug use doesn't take place, whereas my own (comprehensive) school tackled the problems head on with meetings, drug awareness lessons and personal councillors for those who needed it. The school understands that (and lets admit it) cannabis is undoubtedly a part of being a teenager but refuses to let it get in the way of education.

Helen Flynn's picture
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 21:55

I did not suggest that drug use was a problem exclusive to private schools (see Will Green's comment above), in fact I state quite clearly that this is an endemic problem when I say that we deal with this problem as governors in state schools. It is how you deal with the problem that is the issue.

Also, anecdotal evidence is all one has access to in the private sector. When opting out of the state sector, quite naturally there is no public accountability. Therefore, reliable anecdotal evidence, which I can guarantee this is, is often the only clue as to what actually goes on in the private sector.

Obviously, parents want to believe they are doing the best when sending their children to a private school. But the question remains, are they? It is difficult to know when so little genuinely directly comparable evidence across the sectors is available.

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