An interesting report on the Private-State schools conundrum, which many middle class people in the UK face, has been drafted by Diane Reay of Cambridge University, and academics from the University of the West of England and Sunderland University. They examined the experiences of 248 parents and children from white middle-class homes in London and two unnamed urban areas who had sent their children to average or badly performing local state comprehensive schools, despite being able to afford private education or to move closer to a better state school. Most did so because they believed passionately in comprehensive education or were on the Left politically.
According to the report, “Most young people interviewed ended up making positive assessments of their experiences of school, including the benefits of a socially diverse educational environment,” “The children did well in terms of academic achievement and were often favored by their middle class teachers.” [which tells us a great deal about the pull of class allegiances, MH] “The spread across a range of ages enabled us to see that all those who were old enough to have completed GCSEs did well, and that all those who were old enough to go to university did so” (with a very high proportion [15%] of these going to Oxbridge). The report concluded, “Children from white middle-class homes suffer no academic disadvantage from going to badly performing state schools, which suggests that comprehensive education is not necessarily a second-class option.”
Positive news and one can but hope more middle class parents will now send their children to the local State schools. Although the question which now needs to be asked is why are these very same schools still failing to unlock the full potential of many of there pupils who come from the working classes. Part of the answer is in the report when it said that more than 80% of the middle class parents interviewed were educated to degree level. Thus unlike many of their working class counterparts, they understood the disciplines necessary if their children were to do well at school, having experienced them when they were children. They also new what doors to open and who to cultivate, it cannot be an accident that many of these middle class parents said they had become friends with teachers and the head of the school their children attended. Nor that 57% of them became school governors. I am not criticizing them, simply stating that they understood how the system worked and were not intimidated by it, which is not always the case with working class parents.
Another factor as to why far to high a proportion of working class pupils still do not fulfill their true potential is down to a lack of parental ambition. Thankfully increasingly working class parent are coming to realize that education is the key which will provide their children with a more full-filling life. Nevertheless a lack of ambition for their children beyond their own life experiences still persists amongst some working class parents; and it is not uncommon for them to tell their children that being a doctor, lawyer, artist, whatever, is not for the likes of them. Thus they do not encouraged their child to go that extra mile educationally, as their own life experience has not equipped them to do so; and this is where the school system must step in. I must stress this has nothing to do with loving and treasuring their child, but every thing to do with having been brought up within a very restricted class based system in which people are taught to instinctively know there place.
For this situation to improve it is not only school children that need to be encouraged and inspired, but some working class parents need to leave behind their ‘such is life’ mindset. True the appallingly low rate of class mobility within the UK hardly helps, but when it is clearly stifling young lives it needs to be challenged head on. The government could start by implementing a compulsory program for all parents when their child first enters the school system, which ‘enables’ them to play a full part in the child’s schooling and which will help the parents instill in their child that anything is possible if they put their mind to it. This should be an enforceable contract between ALL parent’s and the State and would last throughout their child’s school career.
On the political front the charitable status claimed by the UK’s Public Schools should be abolished, as it is clearly based on a sham and there is absolutely no doubt that these wretched institutions play a major role in perpetuating the ‘English’ class system. Any society which allows those with wealth to buy an education for their children over and above that which is available to the overwhelming majority of its citizens has the making of a major fault line within its democratic structure and is heading for disaster. This single fact screams out to all British democrats, yet the pigmies who rules us refuse to act.
Perhaps it is also time to have positive discrimination in favor of state schools within professions that are financed by the tax payer, we could start with the civil service, law, politics and the military, for it cannot be right that many if not most of those who rise to the top of these profession still come from the public[private] school system.
As to those middle class parent’s who send they children to the local comprehensive, good on them for they have shown great courage in going against the prejudices of their class. Whilst there is clearly still some way to go, I would never the less endorse the words of Fiona Millar, state school campaigner, “This [report] destroys the myth that you are giving your child up for a second-class education if you send them to a local school.”