The State Of Our State Schools
The state vs public education debate has been a point of contention for decades. Should they exist?
The word ‘meritocracy’ is societal descriptor aspired to by many and heralded as a reality by a, sometimes naive, sometimes privileged, but always deluded, minority. A meritocracy is a society in which wealth, success and power is proportionate to merit, and merit is, simply, ability. A combination of natural skill and hard work are what many believe to be the recipe to progression. Progress on merit is the ideal, it’s what we should aspire to and is arguably one of the fairest systems upon which society could be based
However, the hard fact is that British society is far from meritocratic. Factors that go way beyond an individual’s own control play a much larger role in determining outcomes than those they can affect. And one of those is receiving an education from a fee-paying school.
An accepted reality for many is that success, wealth and status are predetermined, inherited and unyielding to change. While I don’t uphold the view that hard work can never equate to progress due to existing societal lines - numerous individuals have started from the bottom and made it to what popular consensus would call ‘the top’ - to say that limitations to progress made by an individual is a reflection of their own lack of hard work is audacious and fails to consider the odds that are institutionally stacked against them.
Receiving a private education automatically puts students a step higher than if they had attended a state school. No ‘if’s, no ‘but’s, no ‘howevers. The standards are higher, the classes are smaller, the attention paid to students on an individual basis is far greater. Moreover, the preparation for life after school far surpasses any attempt by a state school to supply their students with the tools they need in ‘the real world’. Interview preparation for sixth form is something state schools advise their students to undertake with family members or other adults in their life, meanwhile interview prep is a given at any private school. This is just one example of supplements received disproportionately by students whose parents can afford to fund their security.
The mere fact that we celebrate success more when it comes from ‘the bottom’ illustrates that there are mechanisms at work that keep class and wealth disparities alive and kicking. Those born into families that are ‘comfy’ to say the least, will, by default be exposed to greater opportunities, not only in terms of the quality of their education but also the level of security they experience.
While a level of disparity in comfort and security will exist regardless, the removal of private schools would force the most influential members of society with the most capital to take note of the deteriorating situation of the nation’s state schools and would ensure greater attention and funds by politicians who are usually personally detached from the circumstances, policies and ‘reforms’ they are given a say on.