Ban private schools?
Two things. First, I said I would give some reasons why we might expect some general improvement in education in non-private schools if we ban private schools. Here are a few:
(i) Ideally, I would tax the top 7% more – the equivalent, over their lifetime, of what they would spend on privately educating their kids. And I would spend it on schools. Now I believe state school kids get about £5k per head. Private school fees average £8k I think. So there would be some additional money. However, it would be spread very thinly. So not a major increase in funding for state schools.
(ii) However, several of you have said that funding is not the issue. It’s other things, like peer group, etc. that matter. In the system I suggested, there would be much greater mixing of social classes in schools. True, 7% of kids will now lose out on the concentrated peer-effect of private schools, but then the increased social mixing might well benefit other kids, for there will no longer be any entirely working-class “ghetto” schools. It’s hard to predict how much of an effect this social mixing would have.
(iii) One very broad educational benefit would just be the greater mixing, with children coming into contact with a much wider range of other kids. I do consider that an important benefit. In the long term, it creates much more of a sense of community, of being in society together, rather than a hermetically sealed off “us and them”. But you may consider this unimportant.
(iv) Those who are privately educated and privately educate their kids have a vested interest in making sure state provision is not too good. In fact, it is in their interest that it not provide anything more than the bare minimum required to get the pleb jobs filled Yet this small group wield very considerable power in the media and in government. By removing private schools, this vested interest of a small minority actually to stunt state education is removed. As I say, once the “elite” are forced to send their kids to the same schools as the rest of us, I think we’ll see them battling very hard to get standards improved.
I admit, however, that the effect of banning private schools may not be to bring state schools up to the current private standard (it certainly won’t bring them up to the standard of the most expensive private schools). However, I don’t see that matters much, for the reasons I have given in earlier postings. As I said, if you want the very best native talent working on a cure for cancer, ban private schools.
Second, many of you suggest, like Gordon Brown et al, that the cure for the current situation (especially the shameful waste of native talent) is to bring state schools up to the private level. That will never work. Here’s why:
(i) Several of you have said it is not funding that’s the issue, rather it’s things like peer group. And it’s impossible for everyone to go to a school populated by the upper middle classes. So you have already provided me with one very good reason why state schools can never be as good as private schools, no matter how well-funded they may be.
(ii) Second, even if state school funding is increased, those that can afford to do so will simply spend more in order to maintain the differential.
(iii) It is not possible to fund every state school to the level of Eton. The taxation required would cripple the country. So, while private schools exist, there will always exist a small minority who have a very significant educational advantage bought for them.