Thursday, 14 January 2010

Latest school results make clearest case yet for nationalising private schools

Today's Argus reports that three Brighton and Hove state schools - Portslade Community College, Falmer High School, and Hove Park School - have been named as being among the worst in the entire country.

That's not really fair. Parents and pupils will be alarmed, and they needn't be, really. There are all sorts of reasons why performance, measured in terms of exam results alone, don't really provide a very useful measure of whether a school is a good one or a bad one.  All three serve socially mixed areas, with some pupils experiencing serious deprivation, in areas of the city where the cost of living is high yet wages are low. All three schools have undergone massive management disruption this year - and all three are improving. That's not to say they shouldn't improve more - and quickly: of course they should. That needs an injection of cash - and of course Brighton Council and the Government should find it.

But the same Argus story reveals one reason why the divide between the richest and the poorest is growing wider every year: the privately-run Brighton College has been named as one of the best in the country.

By my sums, enrolling a child at Brighton College  for the length of a school career costs just over £150,000. For that money, you'll buy not just smaller class sizes and better facilities but, it seems, better chances of doing well in your exam, and, probably, a longer life and higher future earnings into the bag. It hardly seems fair, does it?

What am I supposed to say to my five-year-old son when he asks why he can't go to the school over the road (I live opposite Brighton College) - but instead has to get the bus to Coombe Road every morning? 'Oh well, son, you can't go there because I'm not rich enough: sorry! By the way, it's not just that you've got a longer trip to school that's the issue - you'll almost certainly do worse in your exams too...'

I think the sooner the state has the courage to nationalise private schools - just as it has done, to excellent effect, in parts of Canada - and make them available to everyone, at the same time as massively increasing investment in every school to ensure all pupils can enjoy the very best (yes it'll cost a bit more but it seems the government can find the billions alright when it wants to, say, bail out the banks, or fund an immoral war, or an outdated nuclear deterrent, or the latest hair-brained scheme they dream up in Whitehall).

Funding for improving education, and stamping out the inequalities in society promoted by hiving off the wealthiest kids, often those with most to contribute to everyone else's education too, out of the state system? Is that really that extreme a solution?


  1. I would say that state schools teach children about people, life and other cultures much better though.

    When these children in private schools spend their lives surrounded by other children whoes parent can afford £150,000 for their education, how can they understand that there are people who can't afford some of the simplest things in life? And what it means for them.

    A good state school should have a cross section of people from different sections of the community so that the pupils learn about other people.

    Thats something a private school doesnt have

  2. Sorry Ben, but while I agree that the plight of state schools is a problem, your focus on Brighton College and the call for nationalisation is highly flawed. See my response below:

  3. I teach in a state school and am a life long socialist

    there is no chance that my daughter is going to attend a state school where she will be taught by the unthinking, uncritical cogs in the machine reducing her to a number that is largely arbitrary and pseudo-scientific - she's too important for that.

    government has reduced education to a conveyor belt of children who have to show progress, whether or not those children have actually made any progress or developed into more rounded, useful people who will enjoy a rich life.

    that doesn't mean I support private edcuation though...