It is difficult to think about the idea of private schools without realising just how unfair a concept they are. It basically boils down to the fact that just because you were born into a wealthy family that you deserve a better education, better connections, and better life chances than the rest of society. The existence of private schools exemplifies the fact that British society is accepting of the notion that classes should be fixed, with the rich staying rich and be given every possible chance in life, while the poor are kept down and kept separate from the wealthiest in society. It is imperative that they must be abolished.
To see the true ridiculousness and unequal nature of private schooling, one only has to compare it to other forms of separation that have existed in education. From times when children have been separated by race so they did not interact, or schools forcing gender-specific subjects to push children into careers based on societal gender stereotypes. Eventually society agreed that said forms of segregation were unjust and banned such practices, yet we still persist with private schools.
It takes very little examination of the evidence surrounding the public school vs state school divide to see why no child should be privately educated. As per the Guardian, around 7% of Britain is privately educated, yet 74% of judges and 71% of senior military officers attended such institutions. Half of top journalists went to private school, a third of MPs and half of the cabinet. What is clear is that the top positions in society are dominated by an elite few. The rich and the privileged are controlling the most powerful and influential positions society has to offer. Politicians make our laws, judges enforce and interpret them, while the media choose how to portray events in society. It is deeply worrying that these institutions are disproportionately occupied those who have been given a head start in life, who have through their very education been taught to think that people should be unequal. That inequality is right and just. It is not. It is wrong and evil.
On top of this, the UK’s top universities are also disproportionately attended by privately educated students. According to the BBC, in 2017, 44% of Oxford students were privately educated, 43% of St Andrews, 40% of Durham and 38% of Cambridge students. The result of this is that those that attended private schools continue to have an advantage in higher education as they enjoy the top education, connections and opportunities that come with attending a top university. Private education stacks the deck in favour of the few in society that can afford it at the expense of the majority who cannot.
This is not to say that I believe it is morally wrong to have attended private school, or even to send your children to private school. I know of people who saved every penny they had to send their children to private school rather than the struggling state-school so that their child had every chance in life. Nor does it mean that privately educated people think a certain way or are then certain to strive to maintain the status quo. They have just been born into a privileged background, in the same way I have as a white, middle-class man. This post is an attack on private education as an institution, not those who attended it.
It is my belief that rather than having high-achieving public schools and struggling state schools that fight to survive, we should abolish private education and improve that ran by the state. State schools struggle in comparison to private schools as they are chronically underfunded and overcrowded as schools are closed. If the government were to fund state schools sufficiently then there would be no need for private schools to exist. Parents would argue they primarily send their children to private school to give them a top-quality education. If state schools were given the funds to improve, the concept of private schools would be mostly redundant.
Unfortunately, there is another reason parents send their children to private school and that is segregation. Public schools offer a promise, to keep wealthy pupils away from working class ones. Private education offers pupils connections. Attendees grow up with the children of politicians, business people, judges, bankers and other influential people. It is an expensive and exclusive club designed to keep the majority of society out. It is a club comprised of just 7% of society, yet it is one that controls society. That segregation is a key motivating factor behind public schools is evidenced by the Independent Grammar School: Durham. As the Guardian reported, the annual fees for this school is £2700 a year, a figure made remarkable by the fact that the average funding per pupil at state-run primary and secondary schools is £4900 and £6300 a year respectively. Children at this school will almost certainly receive a lower quality education than those educated by the state. This means that the purpose of this school is to ensure that wealthy pupils can be educated away from the majority of society in one of the country’s most impoverished regions. It disgusts me that such an institution exists in my own county.
The simple conclusion is that private schools are designed to preserve inequality in British society and to close off avenues to all but a wealthy few. Moreover, it is about ensuring that children are raised in an environment that is socially pure, free from the working classes. The school fees guarantee an exclusivity and opportunity that state schools just do not in comparison. As long as private education exists, there can never be equality in society. Private education is not about meritocracy, it is about elitism and nepotism. It must be abolished.