BBC NEWS | Education | Death of the comprehensive school

Will HayThis made me cross;

Talk to insiders in the so-called “new Labour project” and you realise the importance to the whole strategy of getting the middle-classes to use the public services. As one former Downing Street adviser put it: “we have to persuade the critical mass of people to switch from private to public services”. Otherwise, he argued, they demand tax cuts rather than supporting public sector investment.

Perhaps I’m displaying my socialist roots, and although I don’t often find myself agreeing with Brian Simon, I can’t help thinking that if the post war labour government had banned private education provision in ’45 the middle classes would have to use and invest in the state education system. That might mean we could have education policies directed at helping people teach and learn, rather than based on some PR policy.

There might be an interesting far-right far-left confluence here (not quite the big tent tony had in mind). A press release by the Institute of Economic Affairs from December 2003 tells us the comprehensive is failing those most in need, and it’s the middle classes who benefit most from the system. I think I might agree (though I don’t agree with their prescription for change).

Do the middle classes therefore need more incentives to use a system that already disproportionately benefits them? Why not end charitable status for private education? More money for state education would be raised and the private school system would be betrayed for what it is, a place where one tries to purchase social advantage for one’s children, not a spurious charity. We already have strong evidence that sending your children is not really about attainment or encouraging educational success; because it seems that state education (amongst other things) outputs citizens who, if they go to university, do better than their privately educated peers. It’s about buying status.


  • My my Edward, quite a rant! 😉 I wholeheartedly agree that most private schools shouldn’t be allowed to be charitable trusts when they’re taking so much from parents. However, consider that some parents choose to have their children educated privately for religious reasons. Some of these schools barely scrape by as they charge the absolute minimum they can in order to stay afloat. So it’s not all about ‘purchasing social advantage’, although I agree that it often is! 🙁

  • Doug, you’re pushing all the right buttons… 🙂

    So be it. I would’ve thought that, in an age when religion threatens to drag us into a bizare fanatical conflict, we shouldn’t be encouraging innocent young minds to subscribe to medieval modes of moral thought.

    So, let’s ban religious schools too. Lets have public life for public life and private life for private life. If you want to indoctrinate your kids, do it at home, or at sunday school, which you’d be quite welcome to pay for, under my proposals, if you wished!


  • Ed, just how ‘big’ would your proposed state be? Why shouldn’t parents have the right to have their children educated however they wish? Who are a bunch of politicians to tell you what you can and can not do. I advocate a minimalist state, which is where I think we fundamentally differ…

    Doug 🙂

  • Excellent suggestions Ed. I would go further and disband all grammar schools too so we can finally have a genuine comprehensive system. I teach in a Borough which does not have grammar schools but there is still selection by religion, meaning that those schools cream all the middle class and the rest are left with those who struggle with issues of class, poverty, poor literacy and limited social mobility. Many religious schools are full of total hypocrites including the one which Tony Blair’s children went to. There are things that I know that can’t be placed on a public forum which would totally expose the hypocrisy that goes on.

  • Post it – go on, post it and be damned! I’d love to know what really went on.


  • Laines wrote:

    I have to say I disagree with private school, I think we should have a fully comprehensive system, where all children are offered the same education,why should some children be given an advantage in life based on the fact that their parents have money. It creates a ‘better that you’ state. I even go as far as saying that I think all politicians should be made to send their children to state/comprehensive schools. Why should their children go to private schools, do they not think they are good enough? If there good enough for the majority they are good enough for politicians. In fact I go as far as saying all politicians should use comprehensive schools, the NHS and public transport.

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