Private schools and why they should be abolished

Published On 20 November, 2012 | By Abi | Articles, Politics, Students/Education, Young People
E2E’s political editor Abi discusses private schools and why they should be scrapped.

In the UK, only 7 per cent of school children are privately educated, yet a shocking 54 per cent of Conservative MPs attended fee paying schools, along with 40 per cent of Liberal Democrats, and 15 per cent of Labour MPs. Jay and Kanye said it best: this shit cray. I think it is naive to believe that this disproportionate trend exists because kids from private schools genuinely work harder or are more intelligent than kids from state schools. In my opinion, there are two main reasons that private schools should be abolished: first because of the structural biases that inadvertently give privately educated students an unfair advantage in accessing the best higher education institutions, the best networks and the best jobs. Then there is the elitist culture that they breed and the values they represent.

The average term fee is now £3,903 at day schools and £8,780 at boarding schools. With better money come better resources, better facilities, and better teachers. For example, private schools have been known to hire private coaches to give students extensive training and preparation for Oxbridge interviews – something state schools’ budgets could never stretch to. Then there are the connections and networks that students in private schools have access to; from high-flying parents to past alumni, privately educated students have easier access to things such as internships.

Going to Warwick University, a lot of the friends I have made are from private schools; while I love them all equally, I can’t help but notice some differences in their general mindset. There is a lack of understanding of the way the majority live and an underlying assumption that if you are poor or not achieving, it is down to you and your incompetence. For example, the opinion that benefits are a privilege is something that really annoys me and is a view I’ve encountered more and more since being at uni.

When my parents emigrated to the UK, my mum worked at a factory and my dad worked during the night as a security guard. At age 10, my older sister would get me and my brother dressed for school most mornings. When we got back, we would look out the window of our 2 bed bedroom council flat and wave at the big cylinder-shaped frames of the factory my mum worked at that we could see in the distance. Both my mum and dad were educated individuals; each had gone to good grammar schools in Nigeria and my father had a degree in aerospace engineering and had dreams of working for the RFA – although a later diagnosis of tinnitus would put a swift end to this. The point is, the relative poverty we lived in was not a result of indolence or recklessness on my parent’s part.

I don’t think it’s healthy to have people from such wealthy and privileged backgrounds being educated together. Pluralism is the bedrock of any egalitarian society. Its one thing to read about the welfare state and council flats and it’s another to know someone who’s lived in one. It gives you a better appreciation of the different experiences people go through in life.

Do not misunderstand me; I hold nothing against parents who send their children to private schools; I completely agree that the government need to take responsibility for improving the often low standards of state schools. BUT, I think on an ideological basis, private schools represent a lot of what is wrong with the elitism of today’s state and professional structures. They send out a message that good education is a commodity to be bought and sold, when in actual fact it is a right that every child should have access to. If we get rid of private schools that represent such archaic ideals and principles, the state will be the sole provider of education. Maybe when those in power have no option but to send their kids to state schools where they can mix with everyone else, then they will work on improving education standards across the board and we will dispel the culture of elitism that private education breeds.

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