Better education for all

Oct 31, 2013 by

The tiny number of private schools cannot be blamed for the failure of the enormous number of state schools

It is not often that we take issue with an article in our own newspaper, but we have respectfully to disagree with Professor David Kynaston, who wrote on these pages yesterday. This eminent historian pointed out that social mobility is on the decline. Many would agree. But he then argued that this is predominantly the fault of private schools – because they prevent the wealthy from falling down the social ladder, thereby blocking the less well-off from climbing it.

We could point out that many parents on modest incomes make significant sacrifices to send their children to independent schools, whose academic results speak for themselves. That those schools make a remarkable contribution to our economy and culture (more than a third of British medal winners in the London Olympics were privately educated). That most engage with their communities and offer support to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Or simply that the impression that they are the preserve of the elites is nonsense – in 2012, one third of Oxford University’s undergraduate bursaries, designed to help students from low-income backgrounds, went to those who attended independent schools.

Perhaps the simplest riposte to Professor Kynaston’s argument is that the tiny number of private schools cannot be blamed for the failure of the enormous number of state schools. A recent report by the OECD showed that England is now 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries. This sad state of affairs is the result of a decline in standards within the state system, begun by the assault on the grammars and exacerbated under Labour. The solution is not to punish parents who want the best for their children, but to improve the quality of free education, giving the poorest in society the training they need to make their own way into the elite.

via Better education for all – Telegraph.

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