Last year, we were greeted with the news that our local independent and preparatory school, Malsis School, was to face closure due to the deteriorating number of students and the subsequent impact on their “cash flow”.
Personally, I was overjoyed. Although the loss of a school is something that should not usually be celebrated, I have always detested private schools. The morals that they stand for and the history that they were built upon no longer have a place in a modern and democratic society. It is high time they were removed and that they finally gave something back to the normal, tax paying, state education receiving, working people of Britain.
The fact that in the UK we still have children being given superior education because of their parents’ wealth rather than their own intellect astounds me. It instils in them a sense that they can buy their way through life, rather than the ‘work your way to the top’, meritocratic mantra that everyone else is expected to swallow. The attitude of the parents turns me off too. Often, they attended that school themselves and are keen to keep it in the family. Also, the division ensured by private v state schooling is inherently wrong: it’s the social separation of CHILDREN based on a family’s income. Such attitudes only further the elitism that private schools so fervently encourage, whilst simultaneously weakening the state education system.
The detrimental effects on the state sector are huge. With private schools sucking up the best teachers (because they can be tempted by longer holidays, higher pay and smaller classes), the best resources and often intelligent and hard working pupils, comprehensive schools begin to lose these assets. Not completely, but definitely significantly.
Moreover, private schools are a dirty memory of when our class system was in full flow and they were the training houses of the aristocracy. They represent a period in our history when we were repressive of the poor and indulgent of the rich. Britain should have risen above the class system long ago, yet the millstone around our neck is the private education system, holding us back. And while only 7% of school-aged population attend them, the consequences of the continuation of these outdated institutions have an impact on us all. Why do we stand for it?
Well – arguably because those who go to private schools (i.e. the rich) control lots of the decisions made in our society, and it is simply not in their interest to end this unjust system. One third of all MPs were privately educated. Almost sixty percent of the Cabinet were privately educated. Forty-seven percent of newspaper columnists were privately educated. These statistics are frightening, and prove the myth of meritocracy to be total bullshit – as well as explaining why the system has never been overturned.
And don’t even get me started on the “charitable status” that so many private schools have, for reasons that have never been made entirely clear. Independent schools are renowned for being insular and elitist, and to claim they are charities is laughable at best and abhorrent at worst. Not only do they not provide any of the services of a modern charity, but they dirty the very name. With this status, they are able to claim an 80% tax reduction, whilst state schools are expected to deal with continuing cuts to their funding. It is the classic conundrum of easing the lives of the rich whilst stretching the less affluent to breaking point. If we gave tax cuts to the most disadvantaged schools rather than the most advantaged, surely it would result in better teaching for the poorest schools, whilst the extortionate prices of private schools would be more than enough to keep their heads above the water.
Meanwhile, under the current government (whose Cabinet mainly comprises privately educated men, as you’ll be aware), private schools have been subsidised by up to £700m a year. As critics have suggested, we may as well subsidise five-star hotels. These are businesses, nothing more and nothing less, and therefore such subsidies are unjustifiable and, I believe, immoral. The only vague form of relief we see are Tristram Hunt’s (Labour’s shadow education secretary) plans to remove the subsidies that private schools receive should they fail to form positive, working relationships with local state schools. Sadly, this is not as radical a measure as I’d have liked, and does little to remove the arbitrary injustice of a government that favours those in the private schooling system.
Private schools represent the very worst that capitalism and the class system can create when they come together, the ugliest love-child you can picture. The sooner we remove these bastions of privilege the better, as it will also remove the last remnants of crappy society built on injustice. Nothing (save the rituals of Westminster) is as anachronistic as these institutions. It is time for our generation to start the fight against elitism, and fight for social equality; a value intrinsic to our sense of morality. Private schools, your time is up.
written by Tom Blake, 16, Yorkshire