Education secretary Damien Hinds has said he wishes to call time on the phrase ‘public school confidence’, mainly by introducing a programme of ‘five foundations’ which will build state school children’s confidence and sense of well-roundedness. Of course it would be lovely if every bog-standard comprehensive was able to offer its students yoga or rock climbing, but given that, in the weeks lead- ing up to GCSEs, my school paid certain students 50p a day in a desperate bid to get them to work for their exams, clearly money is severely needed elsewhere.
Having been to an elite grammar school for sixth-form, I couldn’t help but be acutely aware of the incredible range and quality of resources and opportunities open to students at more ‘prestigious’ schools, as opposed to my old comprehensive. A student coming out of the former type of school would have a much more rounded CV offering, as well as a far stronger and varied skillset, suggesting they were proactive and enthusiastic. Not only that, but I know for a fact that they would be perceived as having worked harder and being cleverer than a kid from a run-of-the-mill state comprehensive, despite the fact that both private and state school children often have no option other than to go anywhere but where their parents choose.
Why try to fix this deeply flawed, unfair system with a programme of activities that cannot possibly be implemented properly? The real issue here is private and grammar schools teaches some children that they are worthier of ‘better’ education, activities and opportunities than others. Even if the private/grammar school is not even academically that great, the system of segregation , a nicer building and uniform will have psychological impact on a child’s sense of worth. At grammar school, assemblies at the beginning of the year would open with commending the students on how high our place was in the Telegraph school rankings, cultivating in their students the thought that we were better, cleverer than those who came beneath us.
If your parents are spending near £30,000 a year on your education, you’re obviously going to feel like you’re worthier of time and effort than if it was free. If, through some miracle, kids from a state comp could get to the same debating levels of kids at Eton, the confidence that Etonians have just from knowing they are Etonians will always give them a one-up, the sense that they are worthier of success because their parents have spent so much money on them. Abol- ishing such schools, not activity schedules in which no one has any real investment, is the only way to ensure all children have the same, appropriate level of confidence.
By Sophie Kilminster
It isn’t every day that I find myself writing in support of Damien Hinds. I went to a low performing state school. Every day I saw the devastating effects that Tory underfunding is having on our education system.
My mum is a teaching assistant at a local primary, and many family friends are teach- ers, so the ‘G Word’ (Gove) is banned at the dinner-table
I’m afraid to say, however, that he’s got a point this time.
The media; politics; the arts; banking; law, all of the most prestigious industries in our society – not to mention this very university – are dominated by public school- boys and private school kids.
I don’t think that’s right, but I don’t think the answer is to make private schools worse; I think it’s to make state schools better.
I want to see a world in which private schools do not exist; not because they were necessarily banned, but because parents see no tangible advantage in forking out £27k to send their son to Eton when their local state comp is just as good. We’re clearly a long way off that goal, but the point is that instead of tearing the privileged down, I want us to focus on building the less- privileged up.
With that in mind, why should we accept that I was never offered the experiences that my private school peers were?
Damian Hinds is right that I should have been offered sports that I’ve never heard of (seriously, what is Eton Fives?) and talks from influential and inspiring figures and national debating competitions like many of the people reading this newspaper were when they were at secondary school.
I don’t think that this should be viewed as trying to make state schools too much like public schools; the only thing about Eton that I want our state schools to emulate is the amount of students getting into Oxbridge and Russell Group universities, and I think Hind’s proposals will aid that.
Here’s the thing though: Hinds will never be able to achieve these goals without a massive injection of funding, which quite clearly isn’t happening.
Without that, his plans are nonsense. My school couldn’t afford printing or to fix the holes in the canteen roof, so how on earth was it ever going to send me rock climb- ing? Education reforms need to be paired with real increases in education spending, something the government has, so far, seemed unprepared to do. Overall, Hinds is right: The opportunities that are given to private school kids need to be given to state school kids too. But just announcing ‘five foundations’ isn’t enough; it will require money that I don’t believe this government is prepared to spend.
By Joe Davies