Why ‘Abolishing Eton’ Could Devastate Education in the UK

By |2019-09-23T12:00:30+00:00September 23rd, 2019|Economics|

The following is Hattie Faulkner’s article from our 5th issue.

Find out how to get your own copy of the issue here.

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The modern state school system was introduced in stages roughly a century ago in the UK, and has meant that everyone in society, rich or poor, has had access to free basic education up until the age of eighteen. With the media and politicians on the left quick to a stir up a frenzy about how financially strained the current education system is, I ask why they oppose a very logical solution – the encouragement of private education.

There is a pot of money designated to paying for schools in the UK, and this money is finite. In essence, the more children we have in independent schools, the fewer we have in the state system. Fewer children sharing the same pot of money means more money spent per child in state schools. This means that people who truly need to rely on the state system – those who cannot afford to send their child to private school – will have access to more resources than they otherwise would have had and will receive a better education as a result.

It’s easy to use the politics of envy to dismiss independent schools with the excuse that they are counterproductive to social mobility, but the prevalence of generous scholarship funds neutralises this argument. Bolton School in Greater Manchester, for example, grants bursaries worth £2.5 million each year, with one in five pupils having their full fees waived. That’s almost five-hundred pupils each year being given access to a world-class education they otherwise would not have been able to receive. Even our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, benefitted from these schemes – himself being a King’s Scholar at Eton College.

If independent schools were to be abolished, it would result straight away in an extra 618,000 pupils being reliant on the state system. This, combined with the 420,000 extra places predicted to be needed in the next decade, would put unprecedented strain on an already struggling system. A recent Oxford Economics report found that the Treasury saves £3.5 billion each year due to pupils enrolled in independent schools – that’s £3.5 billion that would need to be funded by tax hikes or cuts to services.

Perhaps, rather than focusing on the supposed negatives of independent schools on society, we should look at the reasons independent schools do so well. Many independent schools hold a keen ideology of strong discipline, instilling a belief in personal responsibility, respect of authority and a sense of duty.

These values don’t just help students pass exams; they prepare them for the world of work where those who are confident, professional, well-rounded adults will be the ones who succeed. The free school Michaela in Wembley has shown that it is perfectly achievable to put this discipline into practice in state schools, and as a result has accomplished a phenomenal first set of GCSE grades.

The answer to improving education in the UK should never be abolishing the best schools. Making every child equally unable to access top academic institutions will not improve equality. Private schools are part of the solution, not the problem.

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Read the rest of this print issue, information on which can be found HERE.

Photo by Matt Brown on Flickr.

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