Us Brits are very good at social engineering. Our education system is good, on the whole, at keeping people in their place (with a few notable exceptions of course). It cannot be contested that the private schooling system upholds the class system in Britain, making it difficult for talented children to progress onto further education when they have to compete against the cream of the crop from private schools, who will always take preference in universities.
Pupils at private secondary schools are coached rigorously to achieve grades. Private schools court the Principals of top universities. Profiteering companies charge private schools a fortune to train their pupils to secure places at Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. When people come into money they pay for private schooling, mixing old money with new money so that children from poorer backgrounds have the confidence in later life to converse with people from rich backgrounds.
In addition to grades, independent schools encourage confidence bordering on arrogance amongst their pupils. It takes a strong person from a state school background with a localised accent to talk on equal terms with someone with Received Pronunciation from a private education. This is simply down to confidence. The better classes expect subservience and the lower classes do not have the confidence to override this.
The one benefit, to those who cannot afford private education, is that schools are not burdened with educating the privileged. But, if private schooling did not exist, surely there would just be more schools to cater for increased demand? Private schools cream some of the best teachers from the state system. Many of these teachers turn their back on the state system because they are feidup with the restrictive national curriculum, targets, poor funding and big class sizes. I admire good teachers who have remained in the state sector. Are teachers ‘chickening out’ by working in private schools, tempted by the smaller class sizes, facilities and other benefits such as discounted school fees and housing?
I dont think this system is right but who am I to argue? When no-one, as yet, has come up with the answer? Anything that de-segregates society is a good thing but there will always be the haves and the have-nots – its a shame but that is what our society classes as important.
However there are schools that exist that take the best of both worlds providing, at best, a level playing field for talented children regardless of background – The Royal Alexandra and Albert School in Surrey and Christ’s Hospital in Sussex. If more of these schools were in existence across the UK I think we would be stepping in the right direction.
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