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Get rid of private schools? We’d be better tackling inequalities between state schools

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is the 20th Etonian to become prime minister of the UK. Most of his cabinet is composed of privileged, privately educated people, with two-thirds of his ministers among the 7% of the population who went to fee-paying schools.

With more than half of Britain’s senior judges, top civil servants and diplomats also privately educated – not to mention substantial numbers in the media, arts and sport – the UK continues to be a country run and dominated by a privately educated minority.

In the same month, Labour pressure group Labour Against Private Schools announced its intention to include abolishing private education in the party’s next election manifesto. The #AbolishEton motion is calling for an election pledge to “integrate all private schools into the state sector”, and the withdrawal of charitable status. For many, private schools have long been regarded as sites of inherited privilege which stifle social mobility.

Rich man, poor man

Despite being presented as symbolic of the sector, Eton is not your typical private school. It is just one of 2,500 fee-paying schools across the UK and its enrolment of 1,200 pupils represents less than 0.2% of the 650,000 children in fee-paying schools. Best known for educating many public figures, such as George Orwell, Ian Fleming and Princes William and Harry, a year’s boarding at Eton costs around £40,000, while the average annual fee for private schools in northwest England (the lowest regional average) is under £11,000 [PDF].

Arguably, most fee-paying schools are not dissimilar to the best-performing state schools, having little connection to the privilege and prestige of places like Eton. The gap between elite boarding and private day schools…

Continue at Stirling University Public Policy Hub


Image by Lee Kindness [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]