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To be or not to be…a private school

So, Michael Gove has been laying out his vision for education and schools again. In a speech he delivered on Tuesday he highlighted the progress made in state schools but then lumped them all in second place behind private, fee-paying schools.

He states he wants to tear down ‘the Berlin wall’ between state and private schools; that a person entering a school should not be able to tell whether it’s in ‘the state sector or a fee-paying independent’. His vision is admirable: no one would say they didn’t want to improve schools so that every child, regardless of background and wealth, is able to receive a first-class education – however, to champion the private system as doing everything perfectly and to say the state system needs to catch up, is rubbishing the tireless work and dedication of thousands of teachers up and down the country – and is perpetuating the elitist view that private education is better.

As Robert Wilne, the headmaster of the London Academy of Excellence, commented on Newsnight, instead of dividing schools into state and private, Michael Gove should be talking about ‘good schools and schools that are not yet good’. And then he should be focussing on what makes a good school good and using that to help the ‘not yet good schools’ get better.

Yes, many private fee-paying schools do offer their students an outstanding education – but with money and resources readily available (both in terms of staff and facilities), and the ability to hand pick their students, they should not be doing anything else. Perhaps if the government increased funding to state schools to allow them to cut class sizes or employ more staff, that would be the first step to helping schools improve standards.

Lucy Cawkwell

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