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UK public pays high price for private schools

The private school system allows the wealthiest to benefit at the expense of the majority, says Michael Pyke

It is ridiculously inappropriate to compare “luxury homes, cars, exotic holidays” with the fees for private schools (Letters, 12 February). Good education is not a luxury but an essential provision that needs to be equally available to all children if we are ever to have a properly functioning society. Parents are not to be blamed for seeking the best for their children, but the private school system encourages the wealthiest to do this at the expense of the great majority. For example, 14% of the teaching force, trained mainly at public expense, is employed in schools that teach 6.5% of the nation’s children.

Second, the fact that private schools meet the criteria required for charitable status is merely a reminder that these criteria are inadequate. The charitable status enjoyed by private schools represents a subsidy to the wealthiest from the majority of taxpayers, whose own schools are poorly resourced.

Third, the effects of the “stellar” teaching identified by Doug Clark as a feature of private schooling do not seem to last beyond childhood. Repeated research has established that, among university students with similar grades at A-level or its equivalent, the privately schooled are the least likely to obtain the best degrees. As for “parental encouragement and studious atmosphere”, these are not difficult to ensure when those who do not conform can simply be shown the door.

Finally, Mr Clark might reflect on the fact that the products of these schools have formed Britain’s ruling elite since the mid-19th century. After 150 years of national decline, does he think they have done well?
Michael Pyke
Lichfield, Staffordshire

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