Don’t blame parents for wanting the best for their kids. Change the private school system instead

Jun 30, 2019 by

Sonia Sodha –

Only radical reform can sever the golden thread of privilege that runs through education

The headmaster of Stowe was greeted with utter incredulity a few weeks ago when he publicly worried that his pupils were victims of social engineering.

New figures out last week from the Sutton Trust remind us why his musings were so absurd. The tiny cohort of privately educated people is not two or three times more likely than the comprehensively educated to end up in influential jobs: the figure is a massive 12 times. So defenders of the status quo are arguing that the privately educated are twelvefold more qualified to be ministers, news editors and diplomats. It’s ludicrous and insulting.

These figures, which have barely budged in years, prompt a mix of guilt and frustration in me. Guilt because, as someone who went to a private school, I’m uncomfortably aware I’m a symptom of this elitism. Frustration because the solutions we jump to – slightly lower university requirements for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, “blind” CV recruitment – feel like tinkering around the edges.

You might think that dismantling a system that unfairly benefits just 7% of children – the extra resources that get ploughed into their education, the self-assurance and confidence it instils, the access to the old boys’ network that going to a school such as Eton or Winchester opens – might be quite popular with the parents of the 93%. But the Independent Schools Council often wheels out the stat that in one of its surveys, almost six in 10 parents said they would send their child to an independent school if they could afford to. Despite evidence to the contrary, Brits generally believe we inhabit a meritocracy: in 2012, 84% of people said they thought hard work is essential or very important to getting on in life; just one in three thought the same of “knowing the right people.

We’ve all got a stake in maintaining that illusion. People at the top like to believe they made it there through hard work and talent, not luck and privilege. For the rest, there’s the promise of the possible inherent in the belief that we live in a meritocracy.

Source: Don’t blame parents for wanting the best for their kids. Change the private school system instead | Sonia Sodha | Opinion | The Guardian

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.