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My part in the cuts consultation: Part 1: end charitable status for private schools

Posted on 9 June 2010 | 12:06pm

Dear George and Danny,

Many thanks indeed for the expression of interest in my views, and those of every other citizen, as to where you should consider making cuts in public expenditure. I hope you will ignore that old cynic Nigel Lawson and his preposterous suggestion that this consultation exercise is all a Public Relations ploy designed to buy a little time to build a bit more support for cuts you (George) have more or less decided on already.

A couple of presentational points to begin with if I may. George, I think you need to watch that thing you do with your right hand at the Despatch Box. Well, two things actually. First, you tend to bang it on the Despatch Box when you are not actually making strong points. This is an unwelcome and rather confusing distraction. Banging is good for genuine emphasis (Khrushchev took it a bit far with his shoe, though an occasional hand-bang is ok) but you tend to do it making rather routine points.

Second, when you raise your hand from the Despatch Box, you have a tendency to shape your fingers into an odd kind of claw shape. This is not attractive. Take a look at Bill Clinton making a speech or doing an interview. Try to model your hands on his. If you feel he is too left-wing as a model, John Major was not bad at hands, except when he got defensive, when he would stick his fingers together and waddle them from side to side. But Clinton/Major compromise would serve you better than bang/claw.

Danny, I imagine any media-related budgets will be close to the top of the cuts-list, but I think you should spare a few bob for media training. Your predecessor David Laws may have overdone the Bond vilain, ‘show me a programme and I’ll show you a sharp axe’ body language, but he did at least look like a man with a plan and the balls to see it through. I caught a couple of your interviews yesterday and they were a bit ‘um … er … kind of …. um …. er’ ish, added to which you repeat subordinate clauses which weakens any point you are making. These problems are easily ironed out provided you are conscious of them. George is clearly setting you up to do a lot of the media dirty work, so I think early remedy on this is the order of the day.

Now, to my first suggestion for saving a few million quid. Danny, as a State schoolboy (Lochaber High School, Fort William) I think this may appeal to you more than it will to George (Norland Place and St Paul’s, own kids in one of the most expensive private schools in the country.) But I hope you will both consider it on its merits, rather than as a result of your own backgrounds.

I refer to the £100million a year benefit that private schools get by dint of their charitable status and the tax advantages that gives them. This is defended, by George if not by Danny, on the grounds that these schools provide a broader public benefit. Establishing it is not easy, and the debate on it rather muted, as most editors and many other key opinion formers use the private sector, and so tend to assert rather than explore the weakness of their assertions. Hilariously, George’s old school claims its places are not offered on the basis of race, creed, background or wealth.  

The charity commission is aware of the problem, which is why it set a more stringent test to establish this so-called broder public benefit. Most private schools now get round it by offering a few bursaries. However, these are  academically selective so tend to go to more advantaged pupils anyway and disadvantage local state schools which lose pupils who would otherwise contribute to a more balanced intake.

Other schools make a virtue of opening up their facilities to outsiders, including other schools. But as they tend to charge for this, it again undermines the need for public money to be spent on supporting them.

It is interesting too – and Danny, I think that you need to take a look at this – that whilst many private schools make claims to supporting the less advantaged in their communities, the Independent Schools Council can’t even say how many pupils on free school meals they educate. I am assuming they know the answer but are too embarrassed to reveal it. Close to zero possibly?

To be fair to you, George, I know you believe the private sector is almost always better than the State, and believe also that if people can afford to go private, they should, not least so their kids can avoid the hoi-polloi. But Danny, this is a coalition, and you need to start making and winning a few arguments.

Like the argument that private schools are bad for society as a whole, and cost the tax payer dearly; that they act as a break on social cohesion and social mobility; that they cream off able students and aspirant parents from the state system and reduce every other child’s chance of being educated in a genuinely comprehensive school, still the best route to high outcomes for all children rather than simply an affluent few.

Above all, Danny, the argument that they divide young people by race, class and family income at a time when more than ever we should be bridging those divides. After all, as George said every day during the election campaign, and Danny said (albeit looking a bit embarrassed to be doing so) on TV last night … we are all in this together.

Only we’re not, are we? Not really. But we could be if we cared more about education for the many rather than the few.

So go for it Danny. £100million. And a good argument to win, to show you are not just there to do the dirty work, but to show that the coalition is a coalition rather than a Cameron/Osborne walkover, which is how it seems right now.

 *** Buy The Blair Years and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.

*** Buy Prelude to Power here at Amazon.

  • Carla Hills

    I agree with the argument, but as the Labour government didn’t do it, why should we expect the Tories to? Alexander is clearly a man struggling to find his feet. Did not look comfortable on Channel 4 last night.

  • JC

    Why does Danny Alexander insist on looking and sounding like he’s forgotten to bring a note from his mother and is resigned to putting on his PE kit in front of the other boys

  • Todd Jay

    I thought we had elections to elect people who then had to make decisions. This consultation so-called is so ludicrous. You say you want to end charitable status. I happen to agree. Others will disagree. Then the government has to make decisions. What this is really about is the government letting people bang on about welfare cheats, asylum seekers, scroungers and so on and they will use the noise, ventilated by their media slaves, to cut where they always wanted to. I wish some of the Labour contenders would ‘engage’ (as Danny Alexander said a dozen times last night) in this rather than navel gazing

  • Phil Bourne

    Fantastic!! – and soooo good to get £100m in the bag so early in the proceedings.

    ..and I did wonder whether the £100m could be improved by asking the Private Schools if they would make a contribution towards the training of the teachers which was funded by the public sector.

    I have to admit, I am quite enjoying the prospect of helping Gideon (oo I mean George) and Danny further.

  • mark huggett

    I don’t see why private schools should lose the benefit. It will only result in fees going up again. Many hard pressed parents use the private system due to poor schools provided by 13 years of Labour. These parents already pay approx 5,500 per annum in tax for a non-taken up place, on top of high school fees. Some of us are not prepared to play politics with our childrens future unlike you

  • Stephen Wilson

    I agree about moving charitable status.

    I also often wonder whether it might be an idea to insist that those who do choose to educate their kids privately should be made to continue to pay the same fees to the State for their kids’ university education. I don’t know how much it costs to send a child to Eton a year – about £20K I guess? Well why shouldn’t the govt demand that those parents continue to pay £20k a year for three university years? If this was understood to be a tax on private education and not as a way of privatising university education it would be a good way of cutting spending wouldn’t it? The parents can clearly afford it and thinnk it a good investment so they could hardly complain.

  • Jacquie R

    Agree with every word, but can’t find it in my heart to berate young Danny for not being media savvy. I hope he knows what he’s doing, but I’d rather have him dishing out the bad news than his predecessor, who resembled the mean Apache in a bad fifties western.

    The archaic practice of giving charitable status to private schools should have been stopped decades ago, and no thanks to Labour for allowing it to continue. Private education is one of the greatest impediments to social mobility, and the subject is sure to get a good airing if Diane Abbott gets on the Labour ticket.

    And surely, surely, surely, it is the richest who should bear the brunt of the current economic crisis, yet because they are rich they avoid it. We now learn that the expected annual tax revenue from Non Doms is a fifth of what had been anticipated. I would like to ask George and Danny how far they are planning to go to deal with tax loopholes and to make international agreements to stop people transferring their money out of the country. To find out how easily it is done, they can ask their former friend, Lord Ashcroft.

  • Simon

    If it’s presentational points you want to talk about, perhaps you yourself could take some tips ? That constant sniffing, for instance.

  • Brian Hughes

    You’re unlikely to sympathise with my predicament* but I’m beginning to feel a little bit sorry for LibDem party members. Especially those sensitive souls who were so horrified by the ghastly realities and inevitable compromises of real political power that they left Labour to enjoy the comforts and certainties of perpetual opposition.

    Now they see their heroes getting more than just their fingers burnt cosying up to some of the most smugly ideologically right-wing politicians this country’s produced since WWII.

    I guess they were hoping to pull off the trick they’ve managed so successfully in coalitions on councils – viz take the glory for the good stuff but cast all the blame for the rest on their partner.

    But it won’t work in government. Even Jackie Ashley’s spotted the dangers to the LibDem whatever the outcome of the coalition…

    * I’ve just listened to your interview on Night Waves in which you said you don’t like small l liberal self-indulgence or something such as that.

  • Matt

    Just to be boring, it really should be ‘hoi polloi’ not ‘the hoi polloi’ since ‘hoi polloi’ means ‘the many’. I am aware this is on a par with telling people ‘decimate’ means ‘reduce by one tenth’ = a losing battle.

  • Charles

    Alastair
    You miss the point entirely. Why do private schools exist?
    Because the majority of state schools do not deliver the same educational standards. Rather than going on about the small number of people who go to private school ( including Harman, Balls, Blair etc ) why not concentrate your energies on campaigning for the quality of the state sector to be improved and the waste cut. Why would people pay for private school if state school was the same quality?
    Notably it costs local authorities approx 3k a term to put a child through state school – the average private school fee – approx 3k a term. That surely implies that for the same inputs the state sector on average delivers lower outcomes. Hmmm
    Labour will never return to government while it avoids issues and goes for Prescott chip on the shoulder style class warfare.

  • Nick

    A.C’s selective memory gets worse by the day.

    Ever heard of a chap called Matthew Taylor? You should have, he was head of Tony Blair’s Policy Unit at the time of Labour’s “Big Conversation” with the electorate in 2003.

    Taylor was asked on Radio 4 yesterday whether anyone at No.10, let alone politicians, actually READ the thousands of suggestions that were sent in.

    “Not really” he replied, “we skimmed them to get general themes”.

    As for the comments on education and schools, surely it is time for Fiona Millar to get her own website and blog?

  • olli issakainen

    If the private is almost always better than public, why is it that free market system has failed and China´s state capitalism is flourishing and even helping USA´s economy to survive?
    It is universally acknowledged that Finland´s school system is the best in the world (see, for example, PISA tests). Our system is based on comprehensive schools common to all. We have only a handful of private schools like Steiner schools and religious schools.
    Schools are usually run by local councils. I went to one of the best schools in Finland which is run by state because future teachers practise there.
    We do not waste talent here in Finland. Everyone has equal opportunities. It is not by chance that Finland is the most prosperous country in the world.
    And by the way, half of our Cabinet consists always of women. This is not so by law, it is a custom here. A couple of years ago both our president, who has real power, and the PM were women.

    Ps. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George “Axe Factor” Osborne are paid to make decisions. If they cannot make them themselves, I would cut their posts. And if Andy Coulson is really earning £475,000, I would cut that figure a bit too.

  • Caroline

    Mark Huggett

    But aren’t we all in this together? It is your privilege and entitlement to pay for private schooling, rather than taking up a place in the state funded education system. Are you really suggesting that in these difficult times you should also get a tax payer subsidy on that in because otherwise the fees would cost more? But think on. If, maybe through no fault of your own, you lose your job and income, where will you send your children to school then? And if they, through no fault of their own, have to move from their much superior schooling arrangements – will you want the state school to be at least as good as it is now, or worse?

  • Jacquie R

    Some reactions to some other comments …

    Olli, as always you provide enlightent and interesting facts, particularly today about state schools in Finland. Don’t agree, however, that China is a good model for state v private, as its economic success is down to a vast pool of cheap labour and forms of control that would not be acceptable in Europe.

    And to Mark, your phrase “I am not prepared to play politics with my children’s future” is frequently used by proponents of private education as if it gives them some kind of moral superiority. The implication that the rest of us are using our children to pursure our socialist fantasies is simply absurd.

    An example is my own case. Having been both privately and state educated, we chose to send our children to state schools, where they would receive a more rounded and real education than at an elitist private school. This was for THEIR sakes, not our own. And they succeeded and they are a credit to society. (I won’t go on about how wonderful, brilliant and well adjusted they are, because I’m too modest.) Of course, it only worked because their state schools were decent ones, and I admit there was a sort of “privatisation” in that we were wealthy enough to live within their vicinity.

    PS Another suggestion for George and Danny. Increase the VAT on super luxury goods to 100%. Anyone vain and daft enough to spend £1000 on a handbag, can surely spare another grand towards our frontline services.

  • Nick

    Caroline

    You are ignoring the perversity of human nature in your somewhat blinkered view of the benefits of private schooling.

    We all know from our own experiences as parents that many choose to devote their resources to matters they consider more important- for instance smoking, drinking, gambling, cars and motorbikes etc. Given that a private education increases the chances of a better education and better qualifications which will lead to a better job which pays higher taxes, surely any subsidy that can be directed at parents who have made this admirable lifestyle choice/sacrifice to pay for their child’s education should be encouraged, not sneered at?

  • Laura Pritchard

    Can I just say, I find the people purporting to run the country asking the rest of us for advice on how to do it very disconcerting. I mean, first of all, look at the sort of people who respond to these sort of appeals. Any old online blog will do the trick…. 😀 Secondly, I do kind of hope that the people elected to government and backed by the brightest minds that the civil service can find are rather better at knowing how to do things than me. That’s why I voted for one of them and didn’t put myself up for election. Thirdly, it shows a lack of confidence that the person asking really believes in what they are doing. It suggests they want to be able to say, when everything goes ti ts up, well, I only did what you asked me to do. I may not be very experienced in this sort of thing but this isn’t how a good CEO runs a company and it’s not how I want my government running my country. Just saying, is all.

    Still finding your blog highly entertaining and informative Alastair but, I have to ask since the schools charity thing sounds like a good idea, why didn’t Labour do it? Just asking, is all.

    Regards
    Laura

  • Graham Jones

    There is no chance of the Lib-dems rupturing the coalition, just for the sake of a measly £100 million. They are too cosy feathering their nests for now. Danny Alexander simply can’t believe his luck, though he may be having second thoughts on the job, after he was torn to shreds by Jon Snow and Jeremy Paxman, last night.
    There has been calls for ending the private schools charitable status, for a long time now, and no government has had the stomach for it. There is no chance, a cabinet loaded with public-schoolboys, will bite the hand that suckled them from infancy to No10.
    It is something of a major disappointment, that the last Labour government never saw through tougher criteria, which would have been almost impossible to reverse in a coalition. The Lib-dems could introduce it as a cost-utting measure, and test the coalitions commitment to fair cuts. Fair cuts for who?
    Is it fair that a PM who is a cousin of the queen, wants to give Her Majesty another £8 million? It seems His Majesty is on a redistribution of wealth programme himself, only going in the wrong direction.
    On the leadership race, I’m pleased to see Diane Abbott getting enough votes. Not because I want her as leader, which I don’t, but because the Labour party needs to address all areas of politics, if it’s to regain the trust of the electorate. It has to be the party that speaks with moral authority on fairness, justice, equality, strong economics and high standards in health and education.
    Above all, it has to be about job creation, in all areas of society. Labour have a chance to write the programme for economic growth, because they are the only party who understand the interlocking nature of the global economy. The tories are cutting further and higher education budgets, at a time when new skills are needed for the new industries.
    Will Labour pick the right leader? Yes, they will, because the stock of the candidates is higher than it has been for a long time. The standards are far higher than the tories were able to drum up, and they were lumbered with Cameron.
    Now we’re lumbered with him, as well – for now.

  • Gi

    Absolutely – take away the charitable status, make children who attend private schools pay for a private university and make private schools contribute to teacher training. Stop the subsidy of educating the rich.

  • Garyenefer

    Dear Alastair

    This isn’t you!Surely? I recommend you look up sites (googele ) about behaving like a gentleman. Due to stress,depression , anxiety and time we gentlemen can easily forget how to behave – me too. I decided I needed to do something about this and went back to the drawing board.

    Please let me know if this is of use and how you feel. It may help you blog even better – there’s a gentlemanly comment for you .(even) better.

    love to you and your family

    Garyx

  • Caroline

    Nick

    I apologise that you seem to have taken my comment personaly. I don’t think I actually sneered at the admirable lifestyle choices made by those who choose not to smoke, drink, keep or bet on horses or whatever they choose, and indeed did say that they are perfectly entitled to make those choices if they believe that the state education system is not good enough for their children.

    I merely suggested, since we are looking for ways to reduce spending of money which is raised from everyones taxes, including the not insignificant sums raised from the sales of alcohol and tobacco, were those people to then find they could no longer afford to make that lifestyle choice, what condition would they like to find the state schools in? I would also point that a number of people during the early stages of the credit crunch found that they could no longer afford those school fees, and sadly had to place their children into the state education system.
    I guess it’s all a bit of a gamble really isn’t it? Will the economy pick up if we don’t make these cuts now? If it doesn’t improve, will I keep my job so I can pay for my childs school fees? Will the great British public, when asked to say where the axe should fall, fall for the idea that fee paying private schools should have charitable status, and therefore should be allowed to keep this benefit? Or will they see this, as they viewed MPs expenses, that maybe it’s a bit of a scam?

    Speaking as a tax paying member of the public – Alastair’s proposal would get my support.

  • james nye

    If you had a problem with private schools, why didn’t you do something about it when you had the power too?

    This reads as a typical left wing rant against people who can afford to pay to send their kids to private schools not the actual charitable status they cling to.

    The simple fact is that health and education should not be god given rights to be expected for by the public.

    The state does provide, though at a cost to the taxpayer and will continue to, but the ability to opt out of the public sector providers is a right.

    Better health care and better education is provided by the private sector.

    What about Tony Blair? How did your socialist sensibility justify working for a public schoolboy?

  • Andrew Williams

    This is just ideologically motivated attack on private education very thinly disguised as a cut – the numbers don’t add up from a savings point of view. That there is a £100 million benefit to private schools doesn’t mean that the same amount would then flow to the state in extra revenue – because of course as you will no doubt hope a significant number of private schools would close and a few would be absorbed into the state sector. In fact if you achieved your cherished wish of ending private education in this country the cost of educating another 7% of children of schooling age would be an awful lot more money than £100 mil – it would in fact increase the spending of the state. Typical Labour cut – an ideologically motivated ‘cut’ that just ends up costing more money to the tax payer than before. Nice try but no thanks Alistair, and I say that as a comprehensive school boy – and not a posh one like the Miliband brothers and Oona King went to.

  • Andrew Williams

    Oli,

    China’s education is academically VERY selective. That and the fact that they have a very harsh welfare system which means they place an enormous value on education (and also may explain why as a society they save far more than the British). Also, I believe our private schools have opened schools in China which are very popular.

    Maybe do a bit more research next time…

    Andy

  • Patrick James

    What Alastair Campbell fails to see is that state subsidy is bad for those of us on lower or average incomes but it is good for the wealthy!

  • Richard Burnell

    £100 million is a quarter of the overspend you boys arranged on the joke shop at Hollyrood! No whinging about value for money there, eh?

    Your true pedigree, “By malice out of envy” to the fore however, we have the first signs of your knee jerk lurch to the left Al. No room in the middle anymore, off you go into the wilderness.

  • Co-op G

    I went to the Comphrensive down the road from IDS’s school. My memory is that the kids who were ‘failing’ in the state system were sent there, by worried relatively-wealthy parents, as they were just trying to give their kids a leg-up in a newly Thatcherite world.

    The benefits of staying Comp were clear: avoiding the OTC; getting to watch TISWAS on Saturday AM; and our avoiding our tyranical (but friendly; when you got to know him) ex-Deputy Head – who just couldn’t bear the indignity of not being in a Grammar School any longer. The down side might be that I have few ‘old school’ Facebook friends, no working knowledge of Latin, and an inability to spell. However, I do give little thought no to the old (dingy) place or the dedicated (nasty new)Sixth Form college; they were just too big to love. My current focus is on how to ensure my own kids get the best out of an OK, but overly ‘managerial’, state-system; where the biggest risks seem to be of the LEA itself ‘failing’ and a lack of self-confident ‘leaders’ (rather than ‘problem’ managers) for every school – unless ‘local’ schools form a genuine commonwealth. Having read the above posts I do wonder if we should move to Finland; but I’m neither a lumberjack or a Nokia engineer, and I understand the local language is tricky to pick up? Alistair; what would be the real implication of every single school being a ‘Free School’; not just the ‘best’ ones and the ‘failing’ ones. G

  • Filiz

    Completely agree Andy. NuLabours all over, weak policies on the economy but at least they were strong on performance, knowing when to bang the hand on the Despatch Box at the right time for the best effect. I remember the actor, Blair when he stood up in Parliament and said that Saddam had WMD and that if they gave them up they could stay in power. Great performance, his lies convinced many people.

    Andy
    Andrew Williams
    2010-06-09 22:25:42

    This is just ideologically motivated attack on private education very thinly disguised as a cut – the numbers don’t add up from a savings point of view. That there is a £100 million benefit to private schools doesn’t mean that the same amount would then flow to the state in extra revenue – because of course as you will no doubt hope a significant number of private schools would close and a few would be absorbed into the state sector. In fact if you achieved your cherished wish of ending private education in this country the cost of educating another 7% of children of schooling age would be an awful lot more money than £100 mil – it would in fact increase the spending of the state. Typical Labour cut – an ideologically motivated ‘cut’ that just ends up costing more money to the tax payer than before. Nice try but no thanks Alistair, and I say that as a comprehensive school boy – and not a posh one like the Miliband brothers and Oona King went to.

  • Sally

    Alaistair, next time you blog to George, could you suggest they consider increasing University Fees & removing Loans for private school educated students. If parents opt out of state education why should they then opt in for state subsidised loans & fees in tertiary education. The argument of some of the comments below that private education somehow benefits all education would sound much more valid if the same people would suggest that parents who can afford to opt out of the state school system can also bear the full cost of their children attending University.

  • craigwthomas

    A fact for you, AC, which you may find interesting, on education (if not private education).
    I came across an old document from my old grammar school, dated 1975. It lists exam results. I was so shocked by them that I had sit down and take a blow for a few minutes.

    Of an intake of 90 pupils in 1968, only 23 of them achieved 3 or more A levels seven school years later. That’s a percentage 3 A level achievement rate of 25.5%.
    Such a story of miserable failure in one’s own school is genuinely shocking to me, when Goffs Grammar School, Cheshunt, Herts was touted as a beacon of educational light, etc.

    And yet I’ve heard all my adult life that grammar school education and private education are the only places for kids to go if parents want them to get a PROPER education.

    Seems to me that what the comprehensive education system did far more to raise the achievement of kids in schools in the last 35 years than I realised, even though I taught in that system for 25 years.

    How does the above relate to the present debate about education? That the whole reactionary atance, belief system, etc, of the Tories (and some Lib-Dems) on education is bogus. All the more reason, as we go back now to the foghorn noise of backward, 19th century elitist nonsense from all these public school/Oxbridge nob-ends (sorry, but there we are), in the field of education, for fighting them with all our might. And highlight the fact that in the New Labour years especially (with increased funding and many other measures), the British comprehensive school was something to be hugely, hugely proud of.

  • Nick

    Richard Burnell’s comment hits the nail on the head. Too many of the posts on this thread whiff of envy, including (typically) the original one from A.Campbell.

    My sons attend state schools, but I never cease to be amazed at parents evenings and school events just how many fellow parent cannot be bothered to turn up. Labour’s 13 years in power would have been better spent educating this group, rather than trying to penalise through envy those parents who do take an interest in their kids.

  • Brian Tomkinson

    You are correct when you say: “..we are all in this together.Only we’re not, are we? Not really.” Certainly not in your case, as you continue to make your fortune from the less than illustrious past of you and your Labour pals.

  • Johny

    Agreed! Cut this, increase tution fees, make an education is an investment.

    However why not cut benefits- give people more desire to take the opportunities of education.

  • Paul H.

    ‘The simple fact is that health and education should not be god given rights to be expected for by the public.’ Couple of issues with this, leaving aside the ‘God-given’ bit, why shouldn’t health and education be rights to be expected? They are exactly what I expect from government and why I (gladly) pay my taxes. Maybe if everyone received the same standard of education we wouldn’t get people using phrases like ‘expected for by the public’

  • Simon

    Craigwthomas – has it really not occured to you that maybe more was expected of pupils in order to get their A grades in 1975 ? Perhaps you should sit down again and think about that.

  • mark huggett

    Respone to Caroline

    Dear Caroline – there was no privilege involved in me sending my children to private school as you purport. I am not wealthy and achieved it through saving/loans – because I wanted to give my children best life chances – not a second rate offering that many (but not all) state schools have to offer. In my area the secondary state schools are woeful

  • kathy

    What we should be aiming for is for all schools to have high standards of Education and all children having the chance of a the best Education possible. Unfortunately even after 13 years of Labour and millions of pounds ploughed into schools, there are still failing schools and children coming out of Education not being able to spell or read or write properly. I was educated in the 1950s in Ireland and although I may not have learned a lot of the technical stuff kids do now, I can spell, write and work out sums without a calculator. I learned Grammar and studied Shakespeare, Dickens and developed a love of reading through school. I would pit my basic Literacy and Numeracy skills against any of the kids now with rafts of GCSEs and A Levels. We came from Working Class Council Houses but all received a good all round Education that enabled us to progress in the future. This is what we need to attain now. Mo-one is going to obtain any kind of job if they are have poor literacy and numeracy skills even the most mundane job requires these skills. We need to be raising standards of Education for all our children so they all have a fair chance. At the same time I am not going to blame parents who pay for their children’s Education, that is their choice and they are entitled to do it. I agree these schools should not be subsidised by the Taxpayer but perhaps if standards in schools were improved more people would be less likely to pay for Education. If my child was at a failing school and I could afford it I would pay willingly to give them a better Education.. As for Universities, if less students go because of the cost that can only be a good thing. A lot of degrees these days are not worth the paper they are written on. More Apprenticeships and Work Based Courses is the more sensible way to go. Too may students waste three or four years studying and running up huge debts on courses that are of no value in the real world.

  • kathy

    What we should be aiming for is for all schools to have high standards of Education and all children having the chance of a the best Education possible. Unfortunately even after 13 years of Labour and millions of pounds ploughed into schools, there are still failing schools and children coming out of Education not being able to spell or read or write properly. I was educated in the 1950s in Ireland and although I may not have learned a lot of the technical stuff kids do now, I can spell, write and work out sums without a calculator. I learned Grammar and studied Shakespeare, Dickens and developed a love of reading through school. I would pit my basic Literacy and Numeracy skills against any of the kids now with rafts of GCSEs and A Levels. We came from Working Class Council Houses but all received a good all round Education that enabled us to progress in the future. This is what we need to attain now. Mo-one is going to obtain any kind of job if they are have poor literacy and numeracy skills even the most mundane job requires these skills. We need to be raising standards of Education for all our children so they all have a fair chance. At the same time I am not going to blame parents who pay for their children’s Education, that is their choice and they are entitled to do it. I agree these schools should not be subsidised by the Taxpayer but perhaps if standards in schools were improved more people would be less likely to pay for Education. If my child was at a failing school and I could afford it I would pay willingly to give them a better Education.. As for Universities, if less students go because of the cost that can only be a good thing. A lot of degrees these days are not worth the paper they are written on. More Apprenticeships and Work Based Courses is the more sensible way to go. Too may students waste three or four years studying and running up huge debts on courses that are of no value in the real world.

  • Jayne Kirkham

    I went to a private school. I think public and private schools should be amalgamated into the state system and become comprehensives. It’s something I dared to think a Labour govt might do.
    If they still have to exist, which seems inevitable as no one’s got the balls/cash to nationalise them, then there is no way that they should still have charitable status, particularly after 13 years of a labour govt. Can’t rely on a LibDem in a rightwing coalition to do something that surely we should’ve done years ago?? Why didn’t we remove their charitable status, Alastair?

  • craigwthomas

    Simon
    How old are you?
    What type of school did you go to?
    I realised long ago that my grammar school failed me in terms of a fearsomely dull curriculum delivered, in the main, poorly or at best, in mediocre fashion; I just didn’t realise until this Tuesday how badly we were all failed.

    Even if you’re right in the point you’re making, it doesn’t go very far at all in explaining such underachievement.

    A love of grammar schools is a sign of a romantic reactionary, not someone who genuinely understands education, certainly in its wider sense.

  • Agbenyega

    From a personal perspective:
    1. I choose to send my daughter to a private school because the state schools in my loacle (Oxford!) are all either C of E or Catholic, and I am a committed aetheist.
    2. The fees are not insignificant, around £10,000 per year. However, I am happy to make the sacrifice of 5 handbags, 2 coats, and a pair of shoes; in order to provide my daughter with a religious choice. Incidentally, I am a single parent working full-time in order to do this, and I receive no state benefits.
    3. Aforementioned daughter’s school has a thriving branch in Beijing, with a fantasic emphasis on success and individuality. With a rapidly expanding population (in no small part thanks to IVF treatments) we will see more UK private schools diversifying in China, I am sure.

  • Agbenyega

    From a personal perspective:
    1. I choose to send my daughter to a private school because the state schools in my loacle (Oxford!) are all either C of E or Catholic, and I am a committed aetheist.
    2. The fees are not insignificant, around £10,000 per year. However, I am happy to make the sacrifice of 5 handbags, 2 coats, and a pair of shoes; in order to provide my daughter with a religious choice. Incidentally, I am a single parent working full-time in order to do this, and I receive no state benefits.
    3. Aforementioned daughter’s school has a thriving branch in Beijing, with a fantasic emphasis on success and individuality. With a rapidly expanding population (in no small part thanks to IVF treatments) we will see more UK private schools diversifying in China, I am sure.

  • Phil Bourne

    Simon – has it not occured to you that maybe more wasn’t expected in 1975. In that year I did A level Mathematics (Pure and Applied) for which I got two A grades. My daughter recently did the same A levels and to be perfectly honest I don’t think that I would have got A grades on her papers!

  • deborah

    Agbenyega, China’s population is dwindling, not expanding.

  • Paul H

    £10,000 per year = 5 handbags, 2 coats, and a pair of shoes? How long have you been shopping at Primark?