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Alan Bennett on private education

(401 Posts)
UrbanDad Sat 06-Dec-14 08:35:49

A great quote from AlanBennett, in the Guardian today taken from his talk last summer at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge: “We all know that to educate not according to ability butaccording to the social situation of theparents is both wrong and a waste. Private education is not fair. Those who provide it know it. Those who payfor it know it. Those who have to sacrifice in order to purchase it know it. And those who receive it know it, orshould. And if their education ends without it dawning on them, then that education has been wasted.”

I cannot disagree with any of that.

CatCushion Sat 06-Dec-14 08:52:59

So he's all for selective education according to ability, then. grin Just not when it is paid for.
Private education is used by all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons.
Should everyone be paid low wages just so that no one can afford private education?

In an ideal and fair world there would be equality of opportunity. That is a better goal than trying to make the world of education a level playing field.

IndridCold Sat 06-Dec-14 09:26:28

He also said that he could understand why Philby, Burgess and Maclean betrayed their country, because the class system in Britain was so utterly ghastly - the Stalinist Soviet Unon being a veritable model of a classless paradise presumably.

CatCushion Sat 06-Dec-14 09:32:24

Well yes, I was going to make that comparison and say that where everyone is poorly paid and cannot move around, you get failing power stations, aging aircraft, corruption, bribery and, in Russia's case a kleptocracy.

AuntieStella Sat 06-Dec-14 09:35:53

It's also wrong to educate by address.

So is he actually advocating a state run selection system in which parents get no say about where their child goes, but instead are allocated one to ensure all have the same social mix? And them of course are all taught without differentiation until an approved age where you can say that differences are indeed arising from ability, not any characteristic of home or school environment?

Utopian indeed.

NoPinkPlease Sat 06-Dec-14 09:36:53

I agree with all of that too.

MarshaBrady Sat 06-Dec-14 09:39:38

Why segregate so much according to ability. I don't want that divisive banding either.

TheWordFactory Sat 06-Dec-14 11:09:36

Of course he's correct.

It isn't fair that some children receive a fabulous education whilst others do not.

But I'm not convinced that the answer should ever be to insist no one gets that fabulous education.

Rootandbranch Sun 07-Dec-14 08:22:16

Inequality is education is unfair and unmeritocratic.

It's unfair that some children have twice as much spent on their education as others, especially when those children are already the highest achieving and best supported.

It's unfair to select in any way which disadvantages any particular group, whether that selection happens according to house prices, religion or income. Academic selection is disadvantageous to the majority of children because it robs schools of their brightest and best students, and this impacts on the aspirations and achievement of the rest.

Roll on fair banding, selection by lottery, and the removal of private schools charitable status.

Clavinova Sun 07-Dec-14 09:55:01

You would have to ban all private tutoring and holiday revision courses as well - thousands of state educated children using those services. On the spot fines??

Bonsoir Sun 07-Dec-14 09:59:29

I don't agree that educating according to ability is any fairer than educating according to parental means. Our DC were born able (at least one was born very able indeed) and we spend an awful lot of money on their education. It's not fair that they won the genetic lottery and it's not fair that we lavish them with as many educational opportunities that they can find the inclination to follow.

rabbitstew Sun 07-Dec-14 11:23:59

So, does Alan Bennett want to educate according to ability, then? Which abilities? How does he plan to achieve an educational nirvana where a particularly narrow set of abilities does not end up over-represented in the positions of power? It seems to me that at the moment, the class system still dominates the way we are all educated and which attributes are most admired, regardless of the sector in which we are educated. We are all rushing for an education that will enable us to tell others what to do, without actually being able to do much, ourselves. grin

zaracharlotte Sun 07-Dec-14 11:25:09

DH went to Eton, I went to a state comprehensive in the North. If DH didn't agree with that statement, I couldn't have married him.

rabbitstew Sun 07-Dec-14 11:25:51

And how would a "meritocracy" treat those who do not have many talents? Would it be kind to them?

MarshaBrady Sun 07-Dec-14 11:30:21

It's some kind of blindness - a middle class assurance that they would be in not out? - that educating according to ability would be any fairer.

whattheseithakasmean Sun 07-Dec-14 11:39:58

I live in Scotland and we have a genuine comprehensive system (apart from the lingering presence of Catholic schools, a sad indictment & reinforcement of the continuance of sectarianism down the generations).

Children are not separated according to their parents ability to pay or by their ability. You, by and large, go to your local catchment area school & by and large it works.

Sadly, yes, we do have the bastions of wealth and privilege in private schools but the overwhelmingly vast majority of children attend their local comp. DH & I did & we both went to one of the best Unis in the world. DD will/is doing the same.

I heartily agree with Alan Bennett & do not understand why England will not look North & recognise the value of a true comprehensive system. Yay for access to good education for all - knowledge is power & should not be confined to the well off.

rabbitstew Sun 07-Dec-14 11:40:14

It all really depends what you mean by "fair."

TalkinPeace Sun 07-Dec-14 18:05:29

Define ability:
SO,
the best education is open to those who run the 100m fastest on their 11th birthday
OR
the best education is open to those who can swear in the most languages on that date
OR
the best education is open to those who can pick the lock to the safe that holds the exam papers the fastest
OR
the best education is open to those who can do 16 fouetees on the spot on their 11th birthday

ALL
are valid mechanisms to define future ability

choose which one the state supports

listed Sun 07-Dec-14 18:21:03

I never thought it was fair.

But life ain't fair.

So I don't see an issue.

TalkinPeace Sun 07-Dec-14 18:25:45

Listed
I utterly accept that life ain't fair
but why should tax payments make it less fair ?

listed Sun 07-Dec-14 18:36:54

How do tax payments make it less fair?

I thought we were discussing private schools?

TalkinPeace Sun 07-Dec-14 19:48:43

Alan Bennett is of the generation that benefited from and lauds grammar schools, without seeing how distorted and unpleasant secondary selection has become in the generations since it became state funded

MN164 Mon 08-Dec-14 10:59:45

Parents that support their children's education in any way whatsoever should be applauded not demonised.

Children who suffer poor home life, lack of parental involvement, distracting peer groups and poverty need to be supported more by the welfare system at large and the state school system (plus private schools if they are pushed to).

That support needs taxpayers and increased education budgets.

Yes, private/grammar/faith school education is a privileged experience, but they all generate GDP which pays taxes (reduces debt) in the future.

The myth is that private schools do this at the expense of state schools. They don't - the reality is that state schools need to make private schools redundant. That's a high bar to jump, but that's what the target should be.

OfficerKaren Mon 08-Dec-14 11:05:11

I wouldn't hold up Scotland as an example.

I've been disappointed and note that a lot of successful kids at our local High School are tutored privately. Doctors' kids become doctors and there isn't any more social mobility to my eyes.

OfficerKaren Mon 08-Dec-14 11:11:33

But there's a cosy myth of equality, which also ignores the private secondaries that flourish in the big cities.

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