Monday, 8 July 2019

Private schools and "nuclear option"

The "nuclear option" of scrapping private schools may well currently be "deemed impossible", but what Sonia Sodha describes as  "uncomfortable thinking" could at least result in making Britain "less elitist" (Don`t blame parents for wanting the best for their kids. Change the private school system instead, 30.06.19). VAT charges on school fees is a start, but ally them to ending the charitable status of independent schools, which enables them to avoid 80% of their business rates, and demanding they enter all pupils for the newly-reformed and more rigorous GCSE and A-level examinations, and Sodha`s "damp squib" becomes more potent!
       Universities should be playing their part, too, by accepting a "privilege cap" which limits the proportion of students accepted from private schools at the national figure of 7%. This would force universities into adopting contextual admissions policies, and make more room for pupils from the underfunded schools, from underprivileged families and from economically deprived areas, and moreover, whose potential remains largely untapped. Far fairer, also, to insist that not only the only entry qualifications for our state-funded universities from UK applicants should only be either the highly-regulated A-levels or the BTEC vocational qualifications, but ending the role of interviews in any admissions process. Could there be a more effective deterrent to getting able pupils from working class backgrounds to apply to Oxbridge than the thought of an hour-long questioning by academics? Test their ability after three years of their education, not after eighteen years of being disadvantaged!
      Results of a survey by the Independent Schools Council, showing that "almost 6 in 10 parents" would use private education if they could afford it, are not a justification for its existence, especially as the alternative for many years has usually been the local comp, short of teachers, funds and high Ofsted ratings. The shortfall in recent government spending on state schools has, of course, been both appalling and deliberate, creating the "elitist" society in which Tory politicians thrive. Johnson and Hunt`s silence on their preferences for divisive grammar and private schools has been deafening!

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