The State and Public School Divide

As anyone who has read my blog articles will know, I’m a keen supporter of social mobility and I ‘do my bit’ to make it a reality for more children. I do this by making private tuition for all as accessible as possible.

There is much in the news about private tuition being only ‘for the rich’, which I believe to have been disproven time and time again. My view is that private tuition has never been as accessible as it is today. There is much to be said, however, for the priorities of those holding the purse strings. And each to their own.

The other topic that has been hitting the headlines is state vs private education, what is fair, what is not and the usual shouting match that follows.

There are many elements to this argument. Too many to cover in one blog but here is my view on some of the headier topics.

Private schools and their advantages: Many parents, rich and not so rich, send their children to private schools. Many parents have to save for years, and invariably go without to pay for their children’s education. For many others, it’s seen as a rite of passage and has been planned and paid for by the previous generations.

Once there, one could argue it becomes a more even playing field.

What is true, is that private schools do tend to provide the best of everything. From facilities, to sports and through to technology, private schools will not be found wanting.

The same is true of the teachers. Competition for private teaching roles is as fierce as the battle for student entry. The barrier to entry is typically high and this, along with the competitive element ensures that the private schools usually have the best of the available talent aiming for the private route.

The students of course, are the chief beneficiaries of all of the above.

State schools: Many state schools and academies are well-funded, although of course, not to the level of their private cousins. This is a general statement and naturally does not apply across the board.

Similarly, facilities vary wildly, and it could also be argued that the same applies to teaching standards.

It is well known that teacher retention and recruitment has been a challenge for many years and even now, there’s an ongoing campaign to pull more talent into the state teaching pool. There has been a specific focus on those considering a career change as well as those straight from university.

What is true in this recruitment scenario is that the entrance bar is not as high as in private schooling. Salaries are typically lower, and the requirements may not be as stringent also.

Unfortunately, this can mean that you have someone teaching a subject who has minimum acceptable criteria in say, Maths, teaching children the current syllabus. I am not saying for a moment that this is standard situation, but it does happen.

In this scenario, how can someone who has qualified with a less rigorous examination than a Maths GCSE be expected to teach the ins and outs of Maths as a subject? How are they to engage, excite and bring the subject to life? To get beyond the minimum standard?

As surreal as these examples may be to some, it’s an accurate view of reality for many school children.

And if children are taught to a minimum acceptable standard, how are they to excel and to compete for places in schools, colleges and universities?

Is any of this fair? No. One must question whether it’s even acceptable.