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  • Writer's pictureJack Martindale

Our Unspoken National Disgrace

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

Our Unspoken Disgrace

Here I’m just going to explain my view that the U.K.’s public schooling system is just shameless relic of classist inequality, which indulges elitism.

The fact that ‘public school’ and ‘private school’ mean the exact same thing, to me just helps to exemplify the ridiculousness in such a division being warranted and just how they’re ridiculous. Also, also an incredible portrait of a ridiculous part of one of the most senseless aspects of British Culture.

First off in writing this piece, I have to promise that I am by no means at all wishing to sound as though I’m trying to belittle or chastise anybody who was sent to a fee school. It would be ludicrous and unjust to think that anybody could ever be at all responsible for such decisions that were taken for their benefit before they became an adult.

Perhaps it is my inability as part of the vast majority who received a decent state education, I am not imbued with quite the same sense of expectation and opportunity that would come in the sense of entitlement that is arguably part of the bargain in what constitutes our public school system. Of course it is largely intangible privilege to those receiving it, so it is doubly hard to eradicate.

Borrowing from a Guardian article of 2014, “Just 7% of the UK public attended private school, which compares to 71% of senior judges, 62% of senior armed forces officers, 55% of Whitehall permanent secretaries and 50% of members of the House of Lords.” (Thursday 28th August 2014). This just stinks.

Rest assured that not having been privately educated is one of the things that I feel most thankful, rather than have any resentment towards. Of course, I’m sure that I would have loved it and coasted along a schooling offering me a wealth of opportunities. Arguably, it is a defensive inferiority complex that is causing me the gratitude I have towards having had a ‘normal’ education. Never being saturated with any sense that I’d unthinkingly be destined for always being part of upper echelons of society is something that I’m grateful for.

Always having had more of an opportunity to more independently and decide more of what I actually wanted or do is something that I feel accelerated the growing up process.

Actually, I feel incredibly privileged to have gone to a school where just 55% of pupils got 5 A*-C grade GCSEs (in defence of East Barnet School, my year had a notoriously divided upper and lower tier, with an absence of much in between and they do usually fare somewhat better!) in my year of 2005.

Whilst my results inevitably could have been loads better if I was educated in a less rough and ready environment, I feel that my taking advantage of the opportunity to do A Levels and successfully progress to the well rated University of York only validated my ability, which gave me enhanced drive. It would all have been so normalised if I went to a school where the vast majority go onto further education; at some environments, anything less than Oxbridge would have perhaps been seen as a failure!

The issue has thankfully resurfaced as a seemingly popular talking point, with the Observer printing an article entitled as “Britain’s private school problem: it’s time to talk” (Sunday 13th January 2019). Whilst it has seemed that many feathers have been ruffled and the tongues of the chattering classes have begun to debate the issue. Talking, rather than actually doing anything, is the speciality of this breed, that I am forming part of here.

I cannot be overly optimistic about it soon changing. For whatever disconnected reason, I am being forced to use the number 55, but on this occasion, referring to the number of times that the Sutton Trust note that Public School pupils are more likely to go to Oxbridge. So it seems rather like an unstoppable archaic production line and of course, it is worsening as opposed to much else in the current environment of political unrest.

At the heart of the problem, is what I see as the capitalist notion, that you should have the freedom to do what you like with your own money and give your children the best chance possible. Regardless of how unnatural it seems that we view this level of licence as anything other than corrupting, has plenty to do with several established trends. These include the hypocrisy of the left. This is to me, in a simple terms as there is no need to actually practise what you preach, in that admirable principles are fine to have until they directly affect number one! It’s beyond champagne socialism in confirmation of Thatcher’s long term victory, in simply contradicting yourself in being okay with contributing to a something that propagates so much lack of social malleability.

There is of course, the old chestnut that you’re actually “saving the state money by not having them in there”. Crass should be an understatement for this aspersion. Private school fees reach £17,000 a year on average. Why do we all just fail to ignore the simple truth of how much improvement could be made towards the greater good of resources?

Here’s an idea: the advancement private school affords must be compensated by also giving the same fee to state?

Or couldn’t we an equivalent of Henry VIII’s sacking of the monasteries in the 16th Century…

The issue continues to make my blood boil; it’s simple, anybody who believes it is ethically right to continue with this segregated system must be either thick and/ or just selfish, you take your pick.

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