On February 10th a debate was held at the University of Nottingham (UoN) by The Debating Union and Teach First to discuss whether or not private schools are beneficial for education in Britain.
There were five members of the panel, with Duncan Davis speaking first. Davis studies Physics at the University of Nottingham and is the president of the UoN Young Greens society. Educated by the state system, Davis opposes private schools with his main reason being that they promote wealth inequality and division in society.
It is not about education, but about class
Davis believes that private schools should be abolished for the reason that it is “not about education, but about class”. The segregation of classes is not solely due to the existence of private schools, according to Davis, and the root problem is the presence of the large wealth inequality we have in Britain. Davis says that abolishing private schools will not solve the problem on its own, redistributive tax must also be implemented.
Next on the panel was the President of the UoN Conservatives, Alex Bright. Bright believes that private schools are most certainly beneficial for Britain. In response to the argument that private schools create a class divide that suggests the majority of students at private schools are children to privately educated parents, Bright states that “half of the parents of pupils [of private schools] haven’t been to independent schools themselves”.
One of the major problems with state school education is that parents have minimal choice
Bright suggests that one of the major problems with state school education is that parents have minimal choice, with many parents deciding to move house in order to live in a specific catchment area for a desired school. Private schools prevent parents having to do this. He believes the solution is to “push state schools up [in standard]”, to create competition between private and state schools, thus giving parents a better choice.
Marcus Shepherd is a Teach First Ambassador and Director of Maths at the Merrill Academy in Derby with a passion for children’s education that was strongly present. Shepherd does not currently sway towards a clear opinion on private schools, but he speaks about the fundamental problems in the state education system.
The state system needs to stop focusing on results, but instead assess schools on the improvement of results whilst taking the individual context of each school in to consideration
He states that the state system needs to stop focusing on results, but instead assess schools on the improvement of results whilst taking the individual context of each school in to consideration. Not only this, but schools need to be given time to improve, progress will not happen overnight. In addition to this, Shepherd criticises the way in which parents may have to act to get their child to a certain school, for example they may have to move house or attend religious events.
It is fundamentally unjust that your parents’ wealth should decide your future
Following Shepherd was Jennie Hope, the President of the UoN Debating Union. Immediately Hope makes it clear where she stands and why: “It is fundamentally unjust that your parents’ wealth should decide your future”.
Hope believes private schools are harmful to Britain’s education system as they increase inequality; one reason is that they provide pupils with an unfair advantage in life by giving them a better ‘network’ of people and a better education.
Last to speak was Luke Robert Black. Black was educated in a state Grammar School and received free school meals. He is in favour of private schools and believes that abolishing private schools will be ineffective.
The problem with the state education system is not due to what resources state schools lack; it is due to state schools lacking freedom of choice in the way they are governed
Black is confident that a solution to the many flaws in the state system is to give state schools individual freedom on the way they are run. He says the problem with the state education system is not due to what resources state schools lack; it is due to state schools lacking freedom of choice in the way they are governed.
The debate was fiercely battled from both points of view, with an overall consensus that major changes to the state school system in Britain are required, whether private schools are abolished or not.
Photo Credits: ¡Carlitos via Flickr and Matthew Furniss