Monday, November 13, 2006

'You grow up and you calm down'*

So. Private schools.

This friend of my neice's who is to go to private school is the son of an old friend of mine. We were mates when we were at university in Hull and we shared certain beliefs. I particularly remember that we just KNEW The Clash were the best band in the world ever, and that we just KNEW private schools should be abolished as they perpetuate the evil class system. What was it again that he used to really hate? Oh yes, it comes back to me - people who 'Sell out.'

This morning I find myself rather depressed and recalling the lyrics of 'Burning Sky' by The Jam - another band we were both really into - 'Ideals are fine when you are young and I must admit we had a laugh but that's all it was and ever will be.'.

Apparently on Friday this ex-mate of mine made £250,000 via some business he conducted on e-bay.

My sister did shame him into saying that he would much rather have sent his son to the local state school. He lives in Highgate - one of the most expensive areas in London - but wouldn't you know it, the school of his choice was unavailable (the only decent school in the Highgate area????) and it was either private school or a school in Tottenham so 'What can you do?' No, clearly it wouldn't do for his little Johnnie to attend a school with nasty working class kids.

Would I feel differently about this if it was my child faced with attending a school with a really bad reputation, and if I had the financial means to pay private school fees? I HOPE I wouldn't but I don't suppose I could stake my life on it, but I do know that every time a family like that of my former friend chooses the private system instead of the state then another state school loses the chance of engaging with motivated and interested parents and kids to the detriment of that school. With that knowledge I would feel so very very guilty if I did ever find myself even flirting with the idea of private education for my children.

I think of myself as a tolerant person. Why, I even chat amiably with rival football supporters in the pub before games and have been known to congratulate them afterwards when their team has stuffed us (through gritted teeth mind). However, I have fallen out irreconcilably with people in this village who to me inexplicably do not send their precious darlings to our village school but send them to private schools instead. This choice made in the face of full knowledge that our village school is judged to be an outstanding school by OFSTED. In the community but not OF the community. Which brings me on to the subject of people who want to live in a beautiful village but who have no desire whatsoever to have to engage with their neighbours, but that is a rant for another day.

* From 'The Clampdown' - by The Clash. Wonder if he still listens to them?


David Duff said...

What makes you assume that children who attend private schools are not 'working class' (assuming that children can be so described)? I bet everyone of their parents works and probably extra hard in order to get the money to cover the fees. In my, admittedly limited experience, children are little brutes irrespective of their parentage.

You also, assume that a desire to ignore your village school is some sort of class snobbery. It might, perhaps, have something to do with the standard of education - and, given the general level of intellectual corruption rampant in state education, an OFSTED report is best cut up into small strips and placed in the school toilets!

Anxious said...

David - I don't think anyone doubts that parents work hard to pay school fees. But "working class" has come to have a very specific meaning in society and does not simply mean "people who work for a living", particularly not professionals who can afford to send their children to private school.

I totally agree with you on this, Jane.

It seems that more and more people are opting out of the state system and I believe that this is to the detriment of society in general, because there is less and less diversity within our schools.

People seem to lose their ideals when it comes to their own children - nothing is ever good enough for them.

This is a subject on which Big and I simply don't agree. But as a Classics teacher, if private schools were abolished, he might find himself out of a job!

(Can you tell I went to a state comprehensive?)

(I'm a bit scared to post this, as I know how contentious an issue it is)

David Duff said...

Don't get anxious, 'Anxious', we're all as gentle as lambs here under the velvet glove of our hostess (although one can't say the same of her belligerent Jock boyfriend!)

However, you are right to say that the term 'working class' has a specific meaning in the public consciousness but it is, of course, an utterly false one and the fact that the sillier sort of socialists actually push through policy based on this false perception is not the least of the causes of the detrimental state of our nation's affairs. Should you doubt, simply try and define 'working class' bearing in mind that young men and women with virtually no GCSEs from the direst parts of East London are earning 'megabucks' in the City.

Next, you miss your own point! You write "there is less and less diversity within our schools" but assume that is as a result of people moving away from state education instead of realising that uniformity is the *result* of state-run systems and those seeking diversity try to find it in the private sector - where, increasingly, they are even offering different examinations from the useless state ones.

Then you write "People seem to lose their ideals when it comes to their own children - nothing is ever good enough for them". I am not clear why trying to obtain the best for your own children is less than idealistic, and surely you are not telling us that you would be content to settle for second-best for your own.

Even the fact that your husband is a Classics teacher (and hoorah for him!) whose chances of getting a job in the state sector are roughly equal to a snowball's in Hell, tells you all you need to know concerning state education.

There you are, you see, given a bit of a bashing but no bruises showing. You should see how they treat *me* on this site!

greavsie said...

*Thinks about starting rant on duff local schools and better choices a distance away. Decides not to as has already expended as much heat and light as a good sized city at night.*

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Everyone wants the best for their child - hmm, you would think that in itself is a given but isn't always as straightforward as that. So in education as in so many things you can find people violently oppose school in general and not just a school in particular.

Anyway, more on-topic, JJ you're dead right. Rightly or wrongly perception implicitly classes pupils at comprehensives in a way that is different to the classing of public (eg privately paid for) school pupils.

I really don't think sending children to private schooling helps anyone; I'm not even sure it always works for the individual child. And while I still have issues with selection, there's a fair whack of evidence that at least says state grammar schools are often much better than many paying schools at educating youngsters.

Anxious said...

David - thank you for patronising me.

Working class is not a helpful phrase, I think we both agree on that.

On diversity - I think we've both made assumptions and come to different conclusions. Your assumptions are no more valid than mine just because they are said with more assurance and a condescending tone. As someone who interacts with many people who have come out of the private sector at university and beyond, I do not see diversity - far from it.

On ideals - I think we both know what I meant by that. People who stood up for all sorts of things in their youth find themselves abandoning these ideals in later life when their child is involved. It's not just about your own children, it's about contributing to the society of which they are a part.

I'm not denying that there are many problems with the state education system, but I really don't think abandoning it is the answer.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Actually, I thought a "private school" was where young people went if they had problems with their genitalia - like their pompous parents before them. Isn't it a place where they teach you how to use and care for your privates? Usually you're taught by nuns, priests or former army officers who, suspiciously, are very keen to give private private lessons. Normal people send their kids to neighbourhood schools because that is right and fair and proper.

David Duff said...

Condescending - moi?

Here's condescending, of the Yorkshire 'ee by goomm' variety, "Normal people send their kids to neighbourhood schools because that is right and fair and proper."

Don'tcha' love it? Especially the "normal". I always suspected it and now I know it, after Australia, Yorkshire is the place on earth I would least like to live.

George Walks said...

Build them picket fences higher!!!

Yes, in agreement here J.J. having been around a whole host of private educated folk at university, you can rest assured that little Johnnie will most likely have nothing to say, be completely uninteresting, self-important and in short, have no personality.

Yup then, state educated in Yorkshire 'ere.

Anonymous said...

I have to hold my hands up and say that I would have sent my kids to Stockport or Manchester Grammar given the finances. My mum and dad had a go at sending me to the latter, but they were even more broke than we are.

I hate the thought that any child is denied the best chance because of the fincial circumstances of their parents. Seems that this is what we've got with tuition fees.

Dead right about the Clash though!

Jim said...

Apart from removing your children from the local community and more than likely separating them from their friends, there's also the added burden of a likely 1-2 hour journey per day unless the little sweethearts are boarders, oh and did I forget to mention the back breaking bags private schoolkids lug around with them (Character Building!)

I'm pretty much convinced that's its not a best interests of the child involved here at all, more a case of the snobbery and the ability to relieve yourself of any input into your child's education as given your paying for it, your obviously busy and won't have the time to get involved in the sort of school community Jane referred to in her post.

I mean realistically, if you wanted the very best for your child you could have all the benefit of the school in their community, non-burnout from a 10 hour day and have time to take an interest in their education. Finally if you do the Maths, you'd have enough time and cash left over to supplement with a bloody tutor for the bits they need help with and they won't have chronic back problems and are likely to develop a personality to boot!

Gert said...

I agree with you in general. But I know quite a few people round here (South London) who also share these principles in theory but also know believe that the risks in sending their boys in particular to many local schools are so great that they choose the fee-paying option. This goes across all ethnicities but is particularly noticeable in some. It isn't anything to do with the actual schools nor a snobbish fear of common people but a very real fear of their teenage boys getting in with completely the wrong crowd.

The trouble is that in paying school fees they have no money left for days out, holidays, extra-curricular activities etc, which academically are as important as formal learning.

And yeah, especially from when I was at Uni,but also my observation of posh yobs on nights out in Clapham, I can't say that the products of many of the 'top' fee-paying schools are particularly nice people, or alternatively, have anything that resembles emotional intelligence.

What Lisa said about state grammar schools (but the less said about Secondary Moderns, the better)

J.J said...

With or without the praise heaped on our village school by OFSTED I can assure you David that our village school offers a first class education. I know this not only because all my children went there but because I have been a school governor there for 9 years. I chose to be involved rather than to sit back and moan from the sidelines. So yes, I do say ignoring our village school is class snobbery.

Thank you for your support Anxious. It seems possible that private schools will soon be filled with the off spring of assorted 'wide boys' as they are the ones making all the cash. This will create a dilemma for those parents who feel themselves somewhat above 'that sort of person'so then there will have to be private private schools, and eventually even Eton won't be quite posh enough. Maybe then they will notice the perfectly good local school on their leafy doorsteps?

Greavsie - that bothers me too. You could live right next door to the 'best' boys school in our town but unless you as a parent could convince that school of your total dedication to your childs education your son would not get in. I have seen the application form you have to complete for that so called non-selective school- and you have to have demonstrate your child aged 10 excels in sport, music, the arts, gives all his pocket money to deserving causes and is academically brilliant before they will even grant you an interview. Blood has been spilt and bribes exchanged to get kids in to that school.

Lisa, as a result of passing the 11 plus I went to what was then a direct grant school until I was 15. Most of the girls there were fee paying but it was the only school in the area that didn't publish its exams results - because they were so bad. Being rich doesn't = being clever. Then a house move meant I went to a grammar school. The standard of education was much higher. The trouble there of course was the standards of the alternative to the grammars - people who knock comprehensive schools tend not to remember just how bad some secondary moderns were.

YP - are you perchance suggesting tossers go to private schools??? And you are doing a great and job - have nothing but admiration for comprehensive school teachers.

George, I don't want to resort to stereotyping swelling, rugby playing, sexists do spring to mind when I think of public school types - and oh, that smug self confidence gets right on my nerves! :-)

SP, of couse we want to offer our kids the best available. Tuition fees terrify me. I know I can't afford to fund my children through university and whilst hoping they all get the chance to go, the thought of the size of debt they are likely to leave with is designed to give all parents nightmares.

Great points there Jim, but I hadn't considered before the negative knock on effects for osteopaths if we abolish private schools!

J.J said...

Sorry Gert, it took me so long to write that last reply I missed your comments arrival. I can completely empathise with parents like the ones you describe.I know I am fortunate with the local schools here. But yes, the students whose parents put all their resources into private school fees will miss on activities which make life richer.

Reidski said...

I have no idea what my son's school is like. I do, however, pay a great deal of attention to what my son's like. Am I getting my priorities wrong?

David Duff said...

'Reidski', the answer is 'yes'!

J.J., what is the basis of your claim that your local "village school offers a first class education"?

Also, I thought only nasty old re-actionaries like me indulged in stereotyping! I suppose the severity of the crime depends on who it is you stereotype.

Gill said...

Mmmm The Clash and The Jam- I wonder if their kids went to the local comprehensive?

Alistair said...

I went to both state and public schools.

Who cares as long as your kids are happy and well-served?

Hello Jane :)

Alistair said...

Though I agree about not wanting to be involved in the local community.


J.J said...

In fact Gill, many years later I found out Joe Strummer had gone to a public school.

Alistair! Good to hear from you. We missed ya.