More to private schooling than Eton, Harrow or Roedean
Good to see Alistair Lexden’s article in the Spectator reminding us of the true nature of independent schools, and asking whether they will ever be sensibly discussed in the media. He rightly bemoans the constant use of the same Eton-Harrow photograph from 1937, suggesting independent schools are at the root of social division. What other world-leading sector would have a photograph from 1937 used in the media when describing their service? And picking on one or two well know brand names to discuss such a diverse sector is far too simplistic and misleading.
The fixation on affordability is too blunt an instrument too. I highlighted it in a sector-wide report in the 1990s. There has been much jumping on the bandwagon since, because there is always more focus on fees when economic conditions become more difficult.
Independent schools must control their costs and, yes, affordability matters, but they should also be focusing on making sure that they deliver outstanding customer service. Parents must feel that they are receiving the very best value for money while their child is at school as well as when they leave for university or a career. One of the best heads I ever worked with always said that the qualities of our education and the values we instilled were those that equipped pupils for life, especially when it becomes difficult. You can’t put a price on that.
Let’s have more stories about independent schools that are more accessible and their achievements, and persuade the media to dump that photograph once and for all.
And as for nomenclature, I see that the Spectator uses the somewhat quaint term ‘private schooling’ The term ‘independent’ rather than ’private’ is much more descriptive of a sector that is characterised in the majority by charitable foundations – despite state academies and free schools referring to themselves as ‘independent’.
Rose Wild’s fair article in The Times on Saturday 16 March says that no parent uses the term ‘independent’ school, and suggests that ‘private’ should be used. I beg to differ: private fuels elitism too. Instead independent should convey the idea of being free from both government control and the ideologies/ pedagogies that many parents dislike about the state sector. And above all an independence of thought in its governors, leadership, teachers and pupils.
Photograph provided by Dover College.