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July 11, 2019

Comments

Robert Hanks

Point of information: Toby Young was state-educated – far from being an argument for abolishing private schools, he is evidence for your suggestion that they reveal rather than instil confidence. (He's surely an argument for abolishing *something*, though.)

TickyW

Better still would be to, despite predictable "affordability" objections, raise the annual spend per state school pupil (£6.2k) to the average annual spend per private school pupil (£15k).

This would level up the playing field and reduce the incentive for parents to send their kids to private school. And plebeian kids would then enjoy the same benefits of fantastic facilities, small class sizes, and the individual attention that private school pupils currently receive.

From Arse To Elbow

The idea that a private education teaches you self-confidence is partially true - being told you are a member of an elite will probably boost self-esteem - but it's mostly flannel intended to obscure by indirection the transactional nature of the system. Your parents are buying you a better chance of getting into a top university and/or leading profession. They rarely care about the intrinsic values of Latin poetry.

For that reason, I agree that there is no need to abolish private schools. The better approach would be for those elite universities and professional bodies to apply quotas based on secondary education. The Texas model would be appropriate for the former (every school & 6th form college gets a pro-rata quota across the Russell Group), while the latter could simply have a gross quota for annual qualification awards (if private school pupils are 7% of the total population, then only 7% of new accountants each year can have gone to private schools).

In a system based on equality of outcome, the interests of the sharp-elbowed middle-class would be best served by spreading evenly across all schools instead of concentrating in a few where competition for quota places would be fiercer. The result is that not only would state schools become more socially representative but "bog standard" ones would acquire a powerful constituency of supporters. This would in turn reduce the power, and absolute number, of private schools.

The one profession I wouldn't initially introduce quotas for would be teaching. If more of the privately educated start to gravitate towards this career, we might see a reversal in the steady denigration of the role since the 1980s and an increase in public respect.

Andy

Without private schools there would be no cricket left in this country anymore. The greatest thing England has ever given to the world.

georgesdelatour

Have you read “The Nurture Assumption” by Judith Rich Harris? Harris claims that:

1) the main influence parents have on their children is their genes.
2) the main non-genetic influence on children is not their parents but their peer group. It’s one reason why children speak with the accent, slang and buzzwords of their peers, not their parents.

I think she’s on to something.

I think the main reason parents pay for private education isn’t the quality of the teachers or the teaching - though that’s often the superficial justification. It’s the peer group. They’re paying for a vetted peer group, a vetted circle of friends, for their kids.

Luigi

The best rated school system in the world does not have private school. Why that helps could be because the upper income parents are now part of the public system and their influence is felt. Banning private school keeps the upper income parents vested in the public system and as a result, the local community. I can't see a justifiable reason for keeping private school as the benefits of banning are quite strong.

reason

Andy,
what a strange comment. I come from Australia. In Australia almost all cricket is organized by local clubs on council grounds at the weekend. What school you go to is pretty irrelevant. The way that cricket is organized in the UK is an oddity.

Jim

"Better still would be to, despite predictable "affordability" objections, raise the annual spend per state school pupil (£6.2k) to the average annual spend per private school pupil (£15k)."

Because throwing money at State organisations works so well everywhere else...............

reason

Jim
As against throwing money at privatized organisations which is otherwise known as crony capitalism.

Yes, throwing money at anything is stupid. Managing things well is the way to go. But as far as education of all sorts is concerned it seems to me the best thing to do is to push up teachers salaries.

Jim

" But as far as education of all sorts is concerned it seems to me the best thing to do is to push up teachers salaries."

Are you a teacher by any chance? How did massively increasing GPs salaries go as a public policy, as Blair did with his wonderful reorganisation of the GP service? Did it result in a service thats universally accepted as the best going?

georgesdelatour

@Luigi

According to the PISA figures, the best educational system in the world is Singapore. It has both state-run and private schools. In general, East Asian societies dominate the PISA charts, with Hong Kong, Japan and Macau consistently coming in the top five. PISA has yet to assess education across the whole of China, but when it provisionally included Shanghai, that city came ahead even of Singapore.

A majority of Shanghai parents pay to send their kids to supplementary classes in addition to their formal schooling.

Scratch

"But as far as education of all sorts is concerned it seems to me the best thing to do is to push up teachers salaries."

I think I'd opt for direct democratic control by the parents with executive power over the entire organisation Including enrolment, budget, curriculum, bureaucratic oversight and recruitment.

To be honest that's my solution to any organisation that critically affects people's lives and has attracted an encrustation of petit bourgeois flotsam organised fundamentally around looting and/or class animus.

Daniel

Back in my state school days my Biology teacher was of the view that private schooling was a con. All their metrics of success, whether that be grades, career outcomes etc, are simply the result of screening out the riff raff. Private schools only accept children that are going to be easier to teach and already have fortunate genetics/nurture attributes from their family.

Someone who could get into a private school would do just as well academically wise in a state school and if you don;t already have the kind of wealth and connections that allow one to jump straight to the "top jobs" then it wont make any difference anyway.

Me and my private educated friend have ended up in similar positions and any advantage he did have over me (he came from a family with more money) would still have existed if we had gone to the same school.

Let parents throw away money sending their children to private school for all I care. Just tax them and make state schools as good as they can be.

TickyW

"Because throwing money at State organisations works so well everywhere else............…"

@jim
Yes, it does! The NHS,a state organisation, spends lots of money and gives universal coverage. The US health care system, in contrast, which consists of private and profit seeking organisations fails to achieve universal coverage (market failure) and does not deliver longer life expectancy for US citizens when compared to the UK.

And in the days before state educational provision, education was not universal (again market failure). State schools have extended education to everyone so that poor people don't have to rely on the fickleness of charity. The problem is that the state does not spend enough on state pupils!

So yes, the state, by spending money, works very well - much better than the private sector has done historically in the domains of healthcare, education, transport, and many other infrastructure necessities.

Check your social history!

Rich

I find myself wondering *how* you would go about abolishing private schools. Sure you can abolish the schools, but parents will then send their children to Japan-style crammer schools in the evening. And if you abolish those, then to private tutors, or overseas, or any number of other workarounds available only to the well off.

Bill Posters

There is no point abolishing private schools because it won't make any difference.

We are talking about trying to abolish snobbery in England. A tough ask.

A sustained period of higher economic growth would help. If opportunities are not rationed there is less need to game the system.

If its impossible to have higher economic growth how about a really serious war. A war with prolonged military and civilian casualties would make some room at the top.

One thing that determines how far you go in life is luck. Lets have a crash research program to find out what luck is. If it turns out luck is a virus we could then infect children from poor backgrounds with the luck virus and watch them soar past their better off but unlucky peers.

jim2

I think that the peer group plus social confidence are the key 'advantages'.

Then we have the usual 'more spend on education is a good thing' mantra. Well possibly, but looking forward to a world of automation and AI we might see less of an advantage to mass education. Indeed lower spending has been the direction of travel in the UK.

We might yet see a return overtly or covertly to education streaming. Who and how to stream might prove to be a contentious problem, so better some sort of covert scheme.

Dipper

The main benefit of having private education is that out keeps the state system on its toes. Without it there would be nothing stoping the state using it as a means of mass indoctrination rathe than individual development.

Bloke on M4

Daniel,

"Back in my state school days my Biology teacher was of the view that private schooling was a con. All their metrics of success, whether that be grades, career outcomes etc, are simply the result of screening out the riff raff. Private schools only accept children that are going to be easier to teach and already have fortunate genetics/nurture attributes from their family."

Not only screening out the riff-raff, but also offering scholarships to the very bright kids who wouldn't normally be able to go (and why not, if it's free, the extra-curricular stuff is better).

The strongest data about private schools is how little effect they have on salary compared to people born of similar background. It's small. £3500/year. And that doesn't adjust for the above effects of screening. Your fees will never get that back and you're better sticking the money in the bank and covering other costs for the kids.

Private schools spend a lot of money on looking great, too. They're constantly adding or updating buildings and keep their grounds in tip-top condition so people think they're entering the upper classes.

Jim

"The problem is that the state does not spend enough on state pupils!"

Lets look at the US - it spends nearly $13k per pupil, and teachers get paid on average about $60k. Thats £10k and £48k respectively. Does the US system outperform the UK one by over 50%? Because it should if money is the sole determinant of the effectiveness of an educational system, as you suggest.

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