Things You Should Know About UK’s Private School Debate

There are three things you should know about UK’s Private School Debate. The UK’s Labour Party passed a motion last month to abolish private schools if it wins the next election. The proposal to remove their charitable status was endorsed by delegates, integrate them into the state sector and denounced the private school system which propagates “the privilege of a tiny elite”. Properties, investment and endowments will be redistributed to the state, and universities would be limited to admitting only seven percent of applicants from private schools, same proportion they make up in the wider population. The radical move is nothing short of controversial, sparking a fresh round of debate in the UK. Here are some key takeaways from the different camps:

Things You Should Know About UK’s Private School Debate

1. Abolish

The UK’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell is in support of the motion, he declared that ” private schools don’t need to exist” in an equal society. McDonnell is not the first person to allude to the role of private schools’ in perpetuating social inequality in the UK. Only seven percent of British pupils are private school-educated, however, they are over-represented in the upper echelons of government, business and law. Also, two-third of the current cabinet in the UK are private school graduates, this include the Prime Minister himself, Boris Johnson.

Private schools are found of segregating kids by their parents’ bank balances. They provide the powerful with lifelong networks and promote a toxic sense of social superiority.

Labour delegates vote for plan that would abolish private schools

In letters to The Guardian, readers are cautious of the effectiveness of Labour’s proposal but appear to agree that it will make British society fairer. While it wouldn’t “directly improve the life chances of those that are left behind, it would also take away the automatic life-privileging of those who are wealthy enough to attend them, and then designing a more level playing field”, wrote Michael Miller from Sheffield.

2. Reform

The Private School Policy Reform (PSPR) that was recently launched is a pro-thinktank and a platform for debate and comment. The purpose of the site is to research, assess as well as discuss options for the reform of private schools in the UK, starting with a list of six options in order for political parties to throw their weight behind:

  • Taxing private school fees to reduce demand for private schooling while raising revenue.
  • Removing charitable status, which would remove reduction of local business tax they have to pay.
  • Introduce a policy of contextual admissions to university to counterbalance the advantages of private educated students.
  • Fair Access Scheme, where one-third (initially) of the new intake at all private primary and secondary schools will become free, state-school places.
  • The schools will now become partly private, partly state schools.
  • Phasing out private education altogether.
  • Reform by offering mass bursaries and sponsorships to fill at least a third of places with children from low to middle income, non-affluent families.

3. Keep

The headteachers in private schools have criticised the move to abolish the private education system as one that would deny parents the different choices to picking an an alternative education path for their children.

Head of Eton hits back as Labour plans to abolish private schools

According to Simon Henderson, he said the system is unequal but ‘abolishing excellence’ is not the best solution. The Chairperson of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), called the plan one that is “based on ignorance and the desire to damage”. In fact, the Independent Schools Council insinuated that the Labour Party is putting politics before the interests of children as well as creating a distraction from real problems in education, such as more funding for state schools and support for underperforming pupils.

While Eton College headmaster – the alma mater for 19 British Prime Ministers – admits that the education system is unequal, he described the move to abolish as one that would be “abolishing excellence”. He stated in an interview with The Guardian: “By abolishing some of the best schools in the world, by confiscating and redistributing their assets, is not going to improve the life chances of young people who have been left behind by the education system”.

More fundamentally than that, I don’t think it will work. I don’t think it will improve equality within the education system,” he continued.