Should private schools be removed or do they need to change with the times? This is what our editors look at this week. Labor delegates voted to ‘abolish fee-paying schools and redistribute their assets’ this week and if the party listens to their delegates, this will be the first time Labour has had this policy since 1965, under the Harold Wilson government.
Although this issue has been sidelined by recent incidents in parliament this week, it still remains incredibly relevant. Britain has never been more divided, with House Speaker John Bercow saying we need to ‘try to treat each other as opponents, not as enemies’. Britain has divided into North vs South, Conservatives vs Labour and Remainers vs Brexiteers.
One divide that has always be present in this country is the class divide. With the rise of left wing populism with leaders such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corybn, the former saying this week that ‘billionaires should not exist’, are taking on Billionaire President Donald Trump and Eton educated Boris Johnson, it is hard not to see a divide here as well.
It is maybe a bit surprising the topic of private schools took so long to make the front pages, and then disappear again. The editors at POI however, will look into private schools with a ‘fine tooth comb’ and decide if they should be removed, changed or kept exactly how they are.
I don’t want to see public schools disappear, but they need to change with the times or face being removed – a Liberal article
I must admit, like my colleague Mr Kane, my perception on private schools will be biased. I am eternally grateful to the private education system for the opportunities it gave me, what I learned and the support that made my life one of the best a boy could ask for.
Saying this I feel a wave of guilt in my stomach. Millions of British citizens including many of my own family never got close to this luxury, and are looked after by the state education system which, as most know, is terribly underfunded and badly run. As Liberals must do, I have to compromise between this guilt and what is rational. Therefore I will be suggesting the changes that need to happen for these great institutions to survive the 21st century.
My main suggestion is that it is time public schools earned their charity status. For those who don’t know, most private schools operate as a charity, with the aim of ‘opening up their classrooms to local disadvantaged children.’ I think this is a great plan, which enables private school pupils to not only be exposed to a new way of life outside the comfort of private school, but they also offer deserving students a chance to better their way of life.
However, I think most private schools only do this for the tax breaks, as charities avoid most taxes in the UK, rather than doing it out of the good of their heart. In 2008, the charity commission told private schools that ‘every private school in the country must comply with new rules set by the Charity Commission or risk losing their tax breaks’ and it seems they have not heard the message, as only ‘6,000, or 1%, of pupils attending private schools receive a totally free education’
Now I can feel you building up ready to say isn’t this the job of grammar schools? Yes, you’re right, that is what they are meant for. However, reports suggest otherwise. In fact just ‘just 3,100 of the 117,000 pupils’ or 2.6% go to grammar schools and cannot afford private education fees.
In addition, grammar schools take all the focus of the government away from other areas, receiving the best teachers, books and everything that comes with it. Private schools don’t need the public funding however, as they operate separately and even the children not taken to private schools won’t be so badly left behind or discouraged.
Private schools need to increase their uptake of children from less privileged backgrounds and grammar schools don’t offer the service they need. I suggest private schools take this load on. I am a student from experience who knows how good private’s schools vetting progress is.
A system could easily be put in place to find the best students who would be left behind in the state system (which most do already looking for talented sports players).
Not only that, I think it would be a welcome change to not completely hide their students away from the real world. It would offer a great opportunity to add some political diversity to public schools, something that some of our conservative MP’s could have used back in the day.
Many people don’t want to see private schools disappear. Fellow Liberals and I don’t believe in Labour’s delegates plan. It is so disorganised and extreme I’m not even sure Jeremy Corbyn will accept it. But one thing is clear, if private schools want to survive the 21st century, it is about time they came out of the shadows, help their fellow man and earn their charity status!
Written by Chief Liberal Editor, Max Anderson
Point of Information
Generalisations and downbeat rhetoric. Its time to turn Mr Anderson’s frown upside down – a Conservative response
It fantastic to see Mr Anderson appreciate the wonderful education that we were fortunate enough to receive and I am also very pleased to see him dispute Labour’s tactless plan. It is the completely wrong approach and it must be stopped at all costs. However, I feel that Mr Anderson is too downbeat about public schools and it is my job to turn that frown upside down.
Mr Anderson writes “the state education system which, as most know, is terribly underfunded and badly run”, is an enormous generalisation. Yes, there are far too many state schools that are underfunded and do need financial assistance however, his generalisation makes it look like all state schools are underfunded and badly run. There are many state schools who produce brilliant students with excellent exam results equaling a beating public schools.
Mr Anderson then quotes “6000, or 1% of pupils attending private schools receive a totally free education.” Though this stat is low it is on the up and it’s not surprising that Mr Anderson fails to mention that. He forgets that at our own school we had many new boys come in at sixth form on bursaries. Public schools are dealing with the problem and in years to come we will see a far greater and more equal system.
Yet to end on a more somber note. When talking about Labour’s plan to abolish Public schools Mr Anderson writes “It is so disorganised and extreme I’m not even sure Jeremy Corbyn will accept it.” The nightmare isn’t over as he has accepted it. We must not allow this and I hope that Mr Anderson will see that Public schools aren’t the virus, the Labour party is.
It’s time private schools paid their taxes – a Labour response
It is fantastic that Mr Anderson believes he has had a wonderful education, the opportunities that private school offer can be transformative… but let’s be clear, he is in a minority, and as long as private schools exist, will always be.
I fully support his criticism of Private Schools’ charitable status, it is evident that they comply from benefitting from tax reductions. Unlike Mr Anderson, however, I don’t think that private schools could ever do enough to warrant the title; I believe that such schools should be stripped of the benefit and should instead pay full taxes – doing so will help society far more then any minor actions in the name of charity. Yes, scholarships and bursaries should exist in these institutions, but they would never fund a high enough number of students to make a real societal difference. As I argued in my article, taxation is the first step to squeezing some societal good out of their existence.
I also take issue with Mr Anderson’s metaphor of private schools living ‘in the shadows’, as I demonstrated in my piece, students from these institutions are totally in the lime light; they are overrepresented in all aspects of public life, holding a huge amount of power in society. It’s time that this imbalance is redressed.
There are some state schools that are poorly run, as Mr Anderson observes, but there are also many which are fantastic institutions – my sixth form for example. The issue is that the sector has been let down by the government, it doesn’t have the funding it needs, and for many students their quality of education is a ‘post code lottery’. The problem doesn’t lie in state education, but in successive governments packed with privately educated ministers who don’t give state education the attention it deserves.
Private schools are at the root of Britain’s class problem – a Labour article
Only seven percent of the public are privately educated. seven percent. Yet that
tiny percentage dominates, it is overrepresented in all walks of public life;
politics, university, the media… Currently only 51 percent of parliamentarians were State educated. These people are our representatives, the lawmakers who shape our society, yet a large proportion of them have never, nor will ever, live the life that they are presiding over.
Private education, I believe, is the scourge of our nation, it perpetuates inequalities and denies thousands of intelligent, driven, and interested citizens the same opportunities which are seen at their private school counterparts.
The figures are undeniable, those who attend private school are hugely overrepresented in many fields. Whilst many may cry ‘but they deserve the roles!’, I am sceptical that it is due to their inherent merit, these students are spoon-fed opportunity, and are surrounded by people with high expectations. It is an almost unquestioned assumption that private school children will go to university, especially to a ‘good one’. In fact, Oxford and Cambridge have some
of the smallest proportions of state school entrants at 57.7 and 62.6 percent respectively, despite being the main feeder universities to Parliament, the Cabinet, and the office of Prime Minister. I refuse to accept that financially fortunate children are inherently more intelligent or gifted, but if you’ve benefitted from extra tuition and tailored Oxbridge coaching, you’re clearly at an advantage. The question is, would the same people end up dominating public office and university if it weren’t for private school? I think not.
Inequality of opportunity aside, the main problem with our current system is that this skewed representation often results in laws which do not serve the public’s best interest. Politicians decided against paying slightly more for fireproof cladding on Grenfell. Politicians are behind austerity, politicians cut funding for social care, the NHS, education – all aspects of public life
that hit the ‘non privileged’ the hardest. The fact is, if you’ve never experienced hardship, and are only surrounded by people of the same social background, it is only natural that these issues seem a bit distant – the consequences don’t hit home. That is not the way to create a just and supportive society.
The reality of our current education system, however, is these schools which are at the heart of much injustice are considered ‘charitable institutions’. I am not denying that many schools will raise money for charity and partake in volunteering, but they do not do enough to warrant the title – it is all about tax breaks. A 2017 study found that private schools are set to get tax rebates totalling £522 million over the next few years due to their status. This is a result of a law stating that charitable organisations are entitled to an 80% relief on the business rates payable on the buildings they use. It is appalling to think that private schools are giving so little back to society in terms of taxes, whilst state schools remain deeply underfunded.
So, what is the future of private schools? In an ideal world, I believe they should not exist. However, whilst many Labour delegates are calling for the absorption of private schools into the state sector, I have reservations. The entire funding model for education must change before this could ever be possible, given the existing strains on current state schools – many schools are already reaching crisis point, as places are becoming increasingly more competitive. Firstly, I would call upon the government to remove private schools’ charitable status, as proposed in this year’s Labour conference; they do not deserve the tax reductions they receive, and I believe the money raised from increased taxes could – and should – be fed back into state education. I am also a strong supporter of university schemes to redress the balance of state and private school students in their institutions; the current selection system plays into the hands of private school children who have the benefit of Oxbridge and Russel Group teachers and family. I am inclined to believe that the privately educated should receive higher university
offers, given the advantages they benefit from. It is encouraging to see universities like Cambridge invest in schemes to encourage entrants from less well-off backgrounds, for example their 2018 Transition Scheme.
Overall, private education is at the root of many social inequalities in Britain, and it is time that this changed. Your career trajectory should not be determined by your parents’ wealth, that only perpetuates the vicious circle of misrepresentation. Yes, private schools can be great for their students, but the fact is those students are a minority which dominates. If we continue to allow students to be separated at a young age into distinct and distant social bubbles, Britain’s class problem will never be resolved.
Written by Labour Editor, Isabella Jewell
Point of Information
Miss Jewell and the left have a hazed view of what is going on – a Conservative response
When this topic was agreed on I knew that Miss Jewell and I would have very different views. That’s politics and that encourages debate.
Miss Jewell writes “currently only 51 percent of parliamentarians were State educated.” This is factually wrong. 69% of parliamentarians are state educated as Miss Jewell doesn’t mention those who went to state selective schools.
Miss Jewell argues that public school children have never lived the lives of normal British citizens. She forgets that many of them have had careers just like others before a career in politics. It seems that Miss Jewell believes that all privately educated children live in large mansions and have the nanny to look after them – which for the large majority isn’t true.
“I believe, is the scourge of our nation.” What about the intelligent men and women who have been lucky enough to go to these schools who have become pioneers of business, industry, the creative arts and the civil service? What about the great charity work they have done and the positive impact that these schools have on a local economy?
Miss Jewell then makes the point that politicians are behind austerity, she is correct. Conservative governments have been behind austerity measure. However, austerity was needed due to the Labour party destroying the British economy. Under Conservative government and its measures unemployment is now at it lowest since 1975 at 3.8%. Inequality has gone down under Conservative rule.
Miss Jewel then argues that public schools “ do not do enough to warrant the title –
it is all about tax breaks.” Miss Jewel doesn’t raise the point of how important public schools are for local economies by creating jobs and feeding back money to the local community.
Although Miss Jewell makes some good points, there is a vendetta against private schools – a Liberal response
Miss Jewell makes some strong points here, talking about the problem with charitable status’s and how some private school students are kept in their comfy lifestyle. Unlike her previous arguments which have been strong due to their reliance on fact, this time she is driven by passion.
As I said, Miss Jewell makes good points, but I would like to focus on her overgeneralisation of understanding of the private school system.
In my opinion, the structure of having public sectors such as the media and parliament turning to private school students is not a bad thing. It means the better educated are running this country. I’m not saying they are inherently smarter, but their education has pushed them to be, and in a time when perhaps we struggle have fact trump feelings, this is something we need!
Also to suggest people from private schools simply do not care about the NHS, Grenfell and social care is unfairly harsh. How can you blame all these cuts are based purely on private school education?
The line ‘if you’ve never experienced hardship’ is the best I can take to show Miss Jewell’s opinions here. She believes if you go to private school you live a blissful life and will never understand anything outside that bubble. It is views like this that i sometimes shy away from from saying I went to private school. The assumption of how private school students tend to have an easy life. I admit I have had a comfier life than some, however, I have still gone through hardship.
Miss Jewell, your concerns are not unfounded, and you have shown that. I myself want education to be improved but just because I went to private school doesn’t mean I don’t understand that. To quote Tony Blair, a Labour PM who went to private school, ‘ask me for my three main priorities for government and I tell you: education, education and education’
I loved my time at public school so we must allow others to do the same – a conservative article
I loved my time at public school so we must allow others to do the same. I went to public school and I say so proudly. I have been educated at Ludgrove and Radley College and I am ever so fortunate to have done so. These ten years were filled with fun, care, and friendships for a lifetime. I am lucky enough to have a warm and loving family who were able to send me to these great institutions and I thank them for it. So when Labour announced this week that if they were elected to power they would integrate private schools into the state sector, I was saddened.
If we as the electorate vote Labour into power, then we would be granting a mandate “what would be the most radical education policy for generations.” To me this is just socialistic student politics under-taken by the pairing of Corbyn and Chairman McDonald.
Labour’s new policy really makes me chuckle. Geoff Barton who heads the ASCL head teacher’s unions clearly states that “shift billions of pounds of additional cost on to the taxpayer and would cause massive disruption to students and staff.”
With over 600,000 students moving over into the state system we are looking at an increase of “£3.6 billion” in added costs. This increase on the taxpayer isn’t fair when private schools are making changes to bursaries and scholarships. I think it is the worst way to go about it.
People forget that there are better ways than land-grabbing proposed by the Labour party. Mini revolutions are happening in many private schools in order to decrease educational in-equality. At the most prestigious public school of all Eton College, “74 boys are receiving 100% fee remission and a further 208 boys receiving a range of financial assistance. 22% of boys receive on average a 64% reduction in fees.” £6.5 million has been spent on bursaries and scholarships and other schools are following suit. This how to integrate smart and under-supported children into a higher level of education so that they can thrive.
What inherently shocked me about Labour’s plan was the quota on university places. This to me a simple discriminatory act to children who have been lucky enough to have been sent to fee-paying schools. I had little to no say about my education and I am thankful for my parents sending me to two brilliant schools. Yet if I am above the quota am I barred from trying to achieve higher education at a Russell group university? Most likely.
Private schools produced some of the brightest and well-educated students and what the Labour Party is doing is trying to silence them. In the name of what they think is decreasing educational in-equality, they are actually limiting the rights of children who have been
educated through the private system who want to be educated further.
The Labour party’s plan is appalling and goes about solving the issue in the worst possible way. The burden on the tax-payer is astronomical, the adding of a quota system is unfair and unjust and helps ruin the autonomous bodies that are universities. We must not allow this sheer stupidity into government as all Corbyn and MacDonald are doing here, is unnecessary student politics.
Written by Chief Conservative Editor, Jack Kane
point of Information
Privileges will need to be cut to ensure equal opportunities – a Labour response
Parents can be as ‘warm and loving’ as they like, but sending a child to private school is an expression of love that only a select few can afford. Mr Kane spoke much about the unfair nature of quotas and policies which are aimed at creating a greater balance in society, but is having an advantage removed unjust? In my eyes, this is simply a process of putting everyone on the same level – it isn’t about ‘discriminating’ against private school students.
Mr Kane described how his school colleagues are some of the ‘brightest and well-educated’ people in society. I take issue with his language – ‘bright’ implies a natural intelligence, and there are plenty of bright students in state schools, the problem is the conflation of intelligence and polish. Clearly, being offered endless support, extra-curricular opportunities, vast
libraries etc etc are all factors which produce cultivated young adults, but they are a product of their environment, it is not a sign of raw potential. These advantages should be available to all students, not just a privileged few.
Mr Kane spoke of ‘mini revolutions’ taking place in private schools, plucking the example of Eton which has invested some money in bursaries. The £6.5 million figure seems impressive, but he forgets to consider it alongside the school’s wealth and income; it is far from monumental, and I do not see the repercussions of this ‘revolution’; where is the societal change Kane?
Finally, Mr Kane is outraged at the prospect that an educational decision which was out of his hands could impact upon his future. But, Mr Kane, you’ve hit the nail on the head – how is it fair that 93 percent of students in the UK could be disadvantaged due to a schooling which they didn’t choose? Food for thought maybe.
Labour and Conservatives have something in common, their passions drive their policies! – a Liberal response
When we decided the topic for this week and when Labour delegates decided their plan to get rid of private schools, all the editors had different reactions. Miss Jewell was licking her lips ready for the fight, I as you can might be able to tell, pumped myself up as if about to run out into a rugby World Cup game and I think Mr Kane was…. well afraid. His article shows this. He obviously loves private schools and doesn’t want to see them disappear. He talks fondly about his time there and how great they are. Mr Kane, I certainly don’t want them to disappear like you, but they must evolve.
It is a very defensive article. I write this Mr Kane on the day we have been facebook friends for seven years and as always, let me take your hand and comfort you and say they won’t disappear, but change is scary and it needs to happen.
You must admit more can be done by private schools. We know that it is a rather comfortable bubble but Private schools should not only want to educate their students on the outside world, but they should also feel some sort of moral duty to help from their privileged position. I know that is how I feel and I know you do too Mr Kane. Everything you have said is great, but take my hand, and we will not only make private schools better Mr Kane, but we will make sure they and your memories survive.