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Brown missing the point on going private

Scotsman.com News - Politics - Brown misses the point about why parents opt for private education It's not facilities: it's the ethos of achievement
Gordon Brown still seems to be off the pace. He has declared his desire to raise the level of funding in every state school to the level of the private sector, building state-of-the-art facilities and gleaming new schools everywhere - as if that will miraculously erase all the differences between the two sectors.

In doing so he is demonstrating that he misses the point completely. The reason that parents send their children to private schools is not because the facilities are better than their state counterparts, because often they are not. It is because, on one hand, private schools have lower class sizes but also, and possibly more importantly, because they instil an attitude of achievement from day one, demand hard work and enforce their rules with discipline.

When Tony Blair was at Fettes, conditions were primitive in the extreme. Pupils slept on rock-hard, horse-hair mattresses in draughty rooms, and the classroom facilities were archaic. Yet Mr Blair, like so many of his privileged school colleagues, went on to a good university. Their success had nothing to do with the amount of money being spent on facilities and infrastructure and everything to do with the ethos of achievement at the school.

Simply throwing money at state schools will not make them as good as independent schools, and demand for private education will continue to rise until the politicians in both London and Edinburgh realise that.

The Labour-led governments, north and south of the Border, have been quite happy to reap the benefits of the booming housing market for the last ten years. What is less clear is whether Gordon Brown and the Labour Party are prepared for the much subtler, but probably more influential, social changes which have been brought along in its wake.

And Cameron also misses the point as well, and it is not just about the ethos of achievement, it is about the parent being able to choose the ethos of the school they choose. And for some kids that isn't about exam results, it is about fulfilment at the areas they are good at. By having real parental choice, from the wallet or vouchers, parents can choose.


Having been to a fee paying school and a comprehensive I can absolutely confirm this. There was little to choose in terms of facilities (sports hall and gym at the state school, swimming pool at the private) but there was an absolute expectation that you would try really hard at everything at the private school. At state schools you try hard not to excel in case you get noticed by someone who objects to this presumption.

I can still remember being called a swot by a teacher.

Britain's education system is the envy of many countries across the world. It's a pity it's the private one. The politicians should forget their prejudices and attempt to find out for themselves why this is - and then replicate this in the state sector


Surely the point is to abolish the state sector?

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