Eton Mess: Why Private Schools Are Leaving A Bad Taste In People’s Mouths

In 2017, 40% of students at Oxford University were privately educated, a staggering figure considering just 7% of the general population are privately educated. So, why is it that the privilege of private education leads to access to the top universities, top jobs and higher income in later life?

In 2018, the proportion of private-school pupils achieving A and A* grades at A-level was 48% compared to the national average of 26%.

These grades are often the result of how private schools are run. The smaller class sizes allow a more intense and effective style of teaching. The range of extra-curricular activities enables the building of a plethora of skills and talents. The cost of these schools draws children from families who evidently care deeply for their child’s education, if they are willing to pay the, often, extortionate prices.  It is undeniable that private schools hold many valuable contacts, allowing the pupils to effortlessly foster and utilise these bridges, after all, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. A study by former Labour Cabinet minister Alan Millburn showed that two-thirds believed that social connections are still more important than ‘what you know’. Not to mention the broad range of resources available to private schools due to their excessive funding, avoiding the cuts to schools made by the government that has a detrimental impact on both teachers and students in state schools.

The domination of privately educated individuals in politics is particularly problematic. How can someone who has received the same education as 7% of the population make significant improvements to an education system so far removed from their own?

Around two-thirds of Boris Johnson’s cabinet consist of privately educated individuals.

This leads to the common belief that politicians are out of touch with those whom they claim to represent, a prominent issue in British politics, which could be improved by the abolition of private education. In addition to this, it is predicted that the next generation of lawyers will come from families 70% richer than the average. Another example of a representative role upheld by someone who is likely to struggle to fully represent and understand the people they intend to.

The existence of private schools creates a social divide between those families who have the money to privately educate their children and those who don’t. Education is essential in shaping children as individuals; if they’re grouped with children only of their social class, this perpetuates the class divide for generations. It is just as important that children mix with, and learn to get on with, children from a range of races and religions as it is people from different classes.

The idea that money can buy success should not be promoted.

All children of all financial backgrounds should be educated together and therefore made to work as hard as each other. It’s simply unjust that people should be placed higher on the career ladder for merely being born rich.

This is not to say parents of privately educated children are to blame for sending their children to private school. Of course, most parents would pay for their children to go to a better school if they could. But clearly not everyone can, in fact, most people can’t. With the effects of private education in later life being so notable, why are we allowing children of low and moderate incomes to be disadvantaged?

As a developed country that explicitly promotes equality in areas such as the workplace, through the Equal Pay act, and in democracy through the Representation of the People Act, it seems bizarre that we allow these inequalities to blatantly take place in our education system.

Nisha Chandar-Nair