David Cameron's conference with the "top" private school headteachers at Downing Street this week led to him declaring that his former school, Eton, should be running state schools
. This is already happening to a certain extent with Wellington College sponsoring an academy
What's fascinating about this situation is the obvious difference in the "in-takes" of the state schools and the private schools. Clearly, the children from the state schools will be from poorer homes -- on the whole -- than the children at the private school.
As the free school programme develops, it's becoming clear that in the mind of parents free schools are finding a place in the hierarchy of schools, with the private schools being at the top, then the free schools, then the academies, then local authority schools at the bottom of the pile. Thus the private schools, by sponsoring state schools, are neatly positioning their fee-paying institutions at the top of the pile, and their state-run counter-parts below them. It could be any other way because the parents who are actually paying fees might get jolly cross if the state run counter-part was doing better than the private school. Yet this could theoretically happen; anyone who knows the private schools system well knows that it isn't that great; that it cherry-picks the best students, boots out the ones that are failing and is full of unqualified teachers who believe lecturing to silent classes is teaching.
In a sense, from the point of the parents who are paying fees, the fairest thing would be for Eton et al to become free schools. Of course, this would mean changing the admissions' procedure and these schools losing their "exclusivity"; something quite unpalatable, no doubt, for these institutions.