I raise this subject because of Sean Coughlan’s post on the BBC website about Tristram Hunt’s private school business rate relief warning from Labour.
The BBC says that Sean has added the analysis below to the story written by Hannah Richardson:
“This demand for the private school sector to work more closely with their state school neighbours will probably be seen as a symbolic gesture.
It allows the tone of Labour’s education policy to sound different from the government’s, when otherwise they have much in common.
The amount of money under threat, £147m per year across more than 1,250 schools, might hurt the smaller struggling private schools. Average fees are about £12,000 per year, but it is not going to trouble upmarket schools charging more than £20,000 per year.
A bigger challenge would be the loss of charitable status and the accompanying tax benefits. But a long-running attempt by the Charity Commission to put pressure on this was pushed into the long grass.
Perhaps more pressing is the recent warning from a leading private school head teacher that if they become too expensive, they risk losing their character and sense of educational purpose and could become playgrounds of the rootless global super-rich.”
Firstly, two correspondents writing on one topic strikes me as a bit extravagant (at a time of austerity).
Secondly, how is this deemed to be an analysis piece? That last sentence says give us your money to ensure David Cameron may be able to afford to send his children to Eton. In other words, end our taxpayer funded subsidies and we will have to fully turn ourselves into an export business as a result of increasing our student fees. And there was me thinking that, in a time of austerity, we all have to do our bit to help UK plc pay its way in the world.
And for the record, the global super rich already send their children to the likes of Eton because of their character, sense of educational purpose and because they long ago became the playgrounds of the rootless global super-rich. Eton is a place valued as much for the lifelong connections that may be made there as for the education which it provides.
Mr Coughlan’s analysis, channelling the views of the private school sector, reads more like a defence of privilege rather than an analysis of what has been said by Tristram Hunt. It does, though, serve as a reminder to some on the Left of how quickly these bastions of privilege react at the sight of a single, solitary enemy scout merely observing the lie of the land.
Unlike some on the Left, I have no qualms against using the arguments of this sector against it. We are, they say in the main article, an asset to the nation. However, it is clear from Mr Coughlan’s analysis that they are underselling themselves. Time surely for them to have the burden of public subsidy lifted from their shoulders so that unencumbered by, nay, liberated from the dead hand of the state they may take their rightful place in the firmament by sweating their assets to the full and charging the market rate for their services? Such an ascension would be a boost to our exports, both visible and invisible.
“Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “pointing the finger at independent schools is a 1980s view of education”.” Dear Barnaby, surely it is long past the time that the free market logic that closed down the mines in the 1980s was finally applied to the private school sector? It may “hurt the smaller struggling private schools” to do so, but they will have to improve their productivity or face closure. It is the way of the world. After all, I assume the world owes no one a living is still a complusory lesson on your sector’s syllabus?
Incidentally, Mr Coughlan, where did you go to school?