“We will dismantle systems of privilege and inequality and build a society that works for the millions and not the millionaires,” says Holly Rigby of the Abolish Eton campaign of Labour’s conference vote to abolish private schools.
Well, Holly, I’ve got news for you. Not everyone who goes through, or pays for, private education is some Boris-style toff. I’m certainly not a millionaire and I don’t come from a background of privilege – unless, of course, by ‘privilege’ you mean having the good fortune to be born into a loving family who instilled in me the value and importance of a curious mind and a lifelong love of learning.
Like my parents and grandparents before me, whatever good fortune I enjoy now, I’ve earned through study and hard work. And I choose to spend the fruits of my labour on my daughter (the first member of the family on my side, incidentally, to go to private school). I do so because I know the mindsets and skills she will need most to adapt and thrive in the future of work, and because (regrettably) I don’t believe we will find those 21st century skills being given anything like the same focus and attention in the state sector.
You wanna fix that? Grand. Go to Finland. See how the highest-performing education system in Europe does it, and recognise the myriad ways in which it differs from ours – not least the prestige of the teaching profession, the complete absence of standardised testing, and the way in which development of what they call “transversal competencies” is foundational to the teaching of every subject.
Then, perhaps, you’ll realise that your proposals are redolent of that excellent quote from US journalist, essayist and satirist, H. L. Mencken:
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.