The Tatler’s right: there’s no need to go private

Janet Downs's picture
Private isn’t always best, it’s expensive for a start. The Tatler calculated it would cost about £600,000 to educate two children privately. And the state system confers advantages. The sprogs won’t have everything handed to them on a silver platter: they will have to “fight to get to the top”. And when they reach the higher echelons of public life, the Cabinet say, they can boast they didn’t go to Eton but rubbed shoulders with hoi polloi in the state sector.

But which state schools to choose? The decision is made easier by the Tatler’s guide*.

The Tatler’s team of advisers around England and Scotland compiled a list of possible contenders. Schools which made the short list were given the chance to blow their own trumpets. Heads, teachers, pupils, parents and grannies were interviewed. The presence of little Camerons in St Mary Abbots School “hasn’t altered the school at all – it’s just a bit of tinsel”; Meysey Hampton Primary School, according to one granny, is “Deliciously old-fashioned”; the West London Free School’s intake comprises “children of successful authors to Kurdish immigrants, plus ‘lots of middle-class Euros and the odd lord’”.

Much is made of former alumni: Yasmin Le Bon went to Cherwell School, Harry Hill attended Cranbrook while children of “champagne socialist” Tony Benn – including LSN’s Melissa - were sent to Holland Park.

Unsurprisingly, many of the featured secondary schools are grammars: Kent is “positively bursting” with them. And one of them, Chatham Grammar School, has just been judged Inadequate by Ofsted**. It’s unsurprising that it doesn’t appear in Tatler’s list.

But as the Times editorial (4 January 2014) pointed out, the featured state schools are “only a small sample of the options that are now available” although the leader writer (was it ex-Times journalist Michael Gove?) blew its credibility by saying increased competition will produce more good state schools. The author obviously missed the OECD report which found no correlation between competition and school performance. And it tentatively said its findings*** confirmed other research: greater competition increased segregation which could have a negative effect on equity and outcomes.

So, if you’ve got squillions in the bank, there’s no need to fritter it away on buying education. Give your children the opportunity to mix with children outside the privileged bubble and the chance to outperform their equally-qualified peers from the private sector when they reach university.


The money saved could go some way towards your daughter’s wedding or your son’s first car.

*The guide to 30 schools, described as the crème de la crème of state schools, is not available in full on-line. The full list and potted descriptions are available in the print edition (February 2014) or by subscription.

**Citing Ofsted judgements doesn’t imply agreement.

***OECD said its finding should be used with “caution” although it followed this with saying it confirmed other research. OECD often says its figures should be used with caution (eg the Adult Skills Survey) but it is a warning usually ignored by politicians and the media who treat its conclusions as if they’d been delivered from the mountain tops on tablets of stone.
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