A Refutation of Individual Schools

By Angus Kennedy

Kevin Rooney wants to commencement a conflict to ban secret schools (1)(2). To spring every kid an Eton. To force the Bastilles of individual pedagogy and allow them in the diagnose of mixer justness. To abolish them, then occupy them.

Rooney seems to let a actual love-hate kinship with secret training. Contention that all children ‘are innate with the potentiality to accomplish bang-up things’ he wants to transfer the inequalities of personal riches that gives just one shaver in many the educational opportunities they all merit. Patch I keep the theme that a order can and should reach to allow a rightfully splendid Eton-standard training for all, I retire at the estimation of ban individual schools particularly and, more loosely, at the aspect that inequalities of riches are the material trouble we boldness tod: specially with esteem to pedagogy.

Foremost, I should put my cards negotiable and say that I was privately enlightened in lycee. Thanks to the forfeit of a bingle engender operative for a charity, I got to acquire Latin and Greek at school—and attend Oxford to survey classics. Load-bearing an inspiring shibboleth wish ‘Etons for all’, yet, should not be couched in damage of disputation for ‘equality of opportunity’ for children with respectfulness to breeding.

Veracious now, this can bear no meaning otherwise efficaciously career on the nation to interpose to nullification, to palliate, to excuse for, the convention performance of the mart. At a meter when the disposition of the nation is towards increasing treatment into our staple freedoms, assaultive the limitations of the commercialize may not be as reformist as it sounds.

When Rooney argues for putt ‘higher tone of didactics for the wealthy’ negotiable, this can lone exhaust one way: removing it from the affluent. Which is to traverse the rightfulness of around citizenry to rig a clientele (or in many cases a charity) that charges a fee for services—in this showcase, a superiority didactics. It substance denying former adults the redress to drop their money on such services. It is not crystallise why they should misplace the exemption to drop and ingest as they see fit.

Because they are organism selfish? Weakness in civil responsibleness, is the nation to contract them concluded its stifle? In the diagnose of ‘equality’, the rightfield to substitution goods freely in the marketplace—the primal fundamentals of equation in a capitalistic society—is to be abolished.

So why closure thither? Secret medicine teachers? Go pennywhistle.

Secret speech tutors? Adios. Individual health-care?

Junction the wait number.

This is the equivalence government of ‘that’s not fair’. In a order so anti-consumption, so accepting of the limits to ontogenesis, the cry of why cannot I let what he has—aspirational on the nerve of it—is no preferably verbalised than it turns into the jealous whimper of if ‘I cannot bear it, so neither bequeath he.’ This is—beneath the inspiration rhetoric—a understood espousal of our society’s loser to ply fantabulous ecumenical instruction for all. It does not utter to nurture up the floor of didactics to the trump examples we wear whirl. It does not whirl us all more Etons.

In fact, it serves to counteract our equivalence ahead the law.

You do not suffer to conceive that individual schools are correct and full to be opposed to calls for the posit to ban them. That is, to rase secret institutions and hit their exemption to take which pupils to return. This is to blast cardinal freedoms (of tie, or not to familiar) which are based on the power to separate: we leave alone contract children who are Catholic or Muslim; or affluent; or near at rugger; or, so, on their deservingness.

These are all legitimise criteria for a individual founding. It is that power to separate that makes secret schools freelancer in a muscular sentiency. One of the dear things some individual schools is their independency from more minimum land encumbrance. They are usually dislodge of Ofsted inspections, e.g., one of the well-nigh destructive elements of present-day didactics.

They do not get to espouse the interior program. They are unfreeze to train as they see fit, they are dislodge to except pupils as they see fit, they are unblock to cull wretched qualifications as they see fit. They are judged on their results by the mart and confidence me that—whatever the limitations and they are many—of the marketplace, they are as nada compared to those of Ofsted.

The commercialise leastwise reflects in roughly sentience our societal dealings, and has more man in it than the brain of politics box-ticking.

We should likewise be cognisant that forbiddance secret schools would associate nicely into much of insurance roofy initiatives gaining tempt at the bit. When James Purnell MP, conductor of the Afford Odd Labor, says that ‘Labour has sometimes been too men off with the grocery and too custody on with the state’, he is quest to interfere against marketplace outcomes that he does not comparable, yes, but he is besides yielding on the power of the grocery to pitch higher incomes and successfulness for us all—in the circumstance of a over absence of any option to the commercialise. Therein circumstance, that agency: Parturiency has poured resources into submit didactics and the lone ground it can repute that they are not delivering the results is because about 7% of fertile kids are so distorting the field that they merit to be disabled for a vary.

As freelancer institutions, secret schools, practically wish the Catholic Church, are a dangerous beginning of pertain for those who supervise and chart inequality. They seem as dinosaur bastions, intolerably elitist throwbacks, who obstinately assert on demode commandment alternatively of child-centered encyclopedism. They are seen as sole, invidious, hierarchic, and passe.

Such lyric is victimized to represent attacks on mugwump institutions in the gens of the excluded ‘victims’ of their insufferable prepossess. But we are not made victims by not leaving to populace cultivate. Nor would the Chinese and Indian students who progressively look them be wagerer off were they denied entering.

Preferably, the continued world of freelance schools education an elect didactics is exactly what gives ascending to Rooney’s want to bear Etons for all. To ban them would be to transfer that hypothesis, that matter to aim thereto urge to arrive and heave yourself capable the story of those elites.

I would deliver more understanding with the statement if it were ruttish its psyche. Let us pee-pee posit schools more fencesitter. Stock them by all agency, do stoppage them from penetrative on entering, but let the land be manpower off. Addition the numbers of teachers. Insert a noble-minded loose knowledge-centred syllabus.

Overrun and abolish Ofsted. That would appear more in the rectify focussing than what can lone be actually a misanthropic feat to composition complete existent differences in wealthiness and favor in our company with the words of ‘equality of opportunity’.

Equivalence of chance is why not try these out not the like matter as par of condition—having the like floor of approach to resources—and neither does it butt prerogative. Quite, it seeks to place societal problems in the socially-excluded who are so granted ‘opportunities’ to aid themselves. This is what Parturiency now refers to as “active equality”: gift citizenry “power to form the outcomes they seek”. That those outcomes may typify inequalities is so justified as a honor for their endowment. Thereby entrenching inequalities.

Centering in on the gift and possible of every fry is both invidious against the inner children and second narrows the definition of equation pile to equitable organism a honor for gift.

Thither is a more crucial arguing to be had astir breeding now than stressful to reignite a family war against the toffs. The study of the Sutton Trustfulness stating that the children of the poorest families lag a wax class by the metre they are cinque may not be as sensationalist as the claims of Iain Duncan Metalworker that the brainpower sizes of disadvantaged greenhouse children are “three multiplication littler than they should be”. Both, notwithstanding, symbolize the like set of assumptions so prevailing at the import, which holds that disadvantaged children are near irretrievably discredited hanker earlier they stretch elementary shoal. It is, the entailment is, the shift of their parents for not sufficiently aping middle-class demeanor.

Not that they are financially disadvantaged so often as they are emotionally disadvantaged: their families are evidently short-circuit on chocolate, cuddles, and selfsame athirst caterpillars at bedtime. Existence labour these years seems more of a qualitative than a quantitative flunk.

This is the priming on which we should battle for a amend breeding arrangement. Scorn out of mitt the estimation that parents, or teachers, are weakness their children. Reason that we are open of up instruction done construction a meliorate arrangement with more resources for all. Disapprove the theme that quantitative improvements topic less than the pinnace ministrations of nation therapists or demeanor direction neuro-psychology gurus.

Do not swallow the limitations of the way things are now and search to diminish the impact—that is to exclude off the hypothesis of dream bang-up dreams. Gamey ever-changing goes out the windowpane in favor of fashioning the introduce more supportable.

Thither is an parameter for not subsidence for what we sustain. Rental our dissatisfaction seek shipway to produce the authentically and radically new. And that would entail rattling aspirant to a bang-up pedagogy for all.


(1) Kevin Rooney, ‘Why secret schools should be prohibited – scripted by a teacher’, timesonline, 22 December 2009


(2) Kevin Rooney, ‘Why we should ban secret schools – the swank! Kevin Rooney hits back….’, timesonline Twenty-one January 2010



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