We did the banks – now, the schools


Interesting idea from Jim Knight reported in the Telegraph yesterday: private schools facing falling application numbers and income due to the Credit Crunch being able to apply for Academy Status and enter the public sector.

The NUT make the good point that Academies – of which we at the Paintbrush Collective are not huge fans – were intended to help schools in highly disadvantaged areas, not kids in private schools. However, one of the conditions of being taken into the state sector will be that they have a “normal” admissions process and that they stop charging fees – this, I feel, is a step in the right direction, and will allow a lot of children access to successful schools that they never had before.

Of course, an ideal position would be where there were no private schools and where all parents and students were happy in a successful state sector. Unfortunately, banning private education is arguably illegal under various bits of European legislation and under the Declaration of Human Rights, and the stinking great row that it would cause is almost certainly not desirable. However, if demand for private schools can be undermined, then we can get closer to gaining a truly comprehensive intake for all schools – to the benefit of all students.

Is this simply leftist politically correct dogma? Well, no, actually. Academic studies appear to demonstrate that, whilst there is a strong “levelling up” effect on lower ability and lower socio-economic group children from being in mixed social and academic groups, there isn’t much of a “levelling down” effect on middle class or clever kids: by and large, these children are able to succeed whatever their environment. Also, the quality of academic education offered by a school is (surprisingly) barely cosidered by parents: usually, they select schools based on social groups, wanting their children to be educated either in similar social groups to themselves, or in social groups to which they aspire.

classroom1Whether this social-crowding instinct in parents’ school choices is a convenient proxy for academic achievement or whether it is simply snobbery isn’t really relevant: the fact is, the aggregate effect on educational attainment (not to mention social cohesion) is damaging to a lot of kids, and changing it would benefit them hugely without harming the education of others.



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