“Independent education should be outlawed”
I wonder how many of you heard the debate during half term on Radio 4’s Moral Maze about whether independent education should be outlawed. The panel consisted of a range of people from many walks of life and only one, Michael Portillo, had been educated at a maintained sector state school. The debate started by quoting Nick Clegg’s comment that independent schools are “corrosive” and yet – public school educated himself – he admitted he would not rule out an independent education for his own son. The arguments on the programme were rather predictable. The number of children educated privately is only about 7% so the majority attend state run schools.
Take away from that percentage the number that attend very elite establishments and you are left with a small number attending schools such as PHS.
Nevertheless, the private sector saves the government about £5000 per child and in total it is estimated that this equates to £3 billion per annum which is not a bad boost to the cash-strapped economy.
The biggest criticism against independent schools is that they increase a social divide; better off families buy a step up for their children. However, education should not be about social engineering. Education is about maximising talents and about providing choice. Independent schools sit outside government control, and maybe that is where the true benefit is realised. Schools such as PHS are able to offer the highly regarded international GCSEs, for example, and only now are state school educated children soon to be permitted to study for these examinations. There are many excellent state schools and there are many excellent independent schools. What is important is that there is a choice.