6 thoughts on “State schools have failed us during the pandemic, and beyond – privatise the lot of them”

  1. Posted 23/07/2020 at 14:46 | Permalink

    “The distinction between state and private education – for so long something which has maintained pernicious class barriers in Britain – would gradually disappear.”

    Indeed. If the UK average spend is 6k per head, then if you want to pick your school and have 2 children then you have to earn 24k before tax for that right. i.e. you suffer a 100% tax rate on 24k of income if you have language, religious or other reasons for wanting to choose a school not on the government list. That is the main driver of the hard split between private and state schools. A voucher scheme would create a much more gradual continuum. If the government had any creativity they could offer a voucher at 90% of the state spend. I am prepared to bet that a private company can achieve that cost saving and match quality – and long term 10% off the education budget is a decent size number.

  2. Posted 24/07/2020 at 10:40 | Permalink

    Len, I am an independent school teacher who has worked throughout and indeed my school has delivered a full curriculum remotely to all our students, including years 11 and 13. While recognising that some state schools have delivered little to their students, there are a number of other issues that you don’t mention. Two of which, that most people who read the news must be aware of, is that some schools have had to focus on more urgent issues, namely, making sure kids get fed in the absence of school meals, and secondly, the unrealistic assumption that all families/students have i) suitable tech and internet service and ii) the luxury of an adult to sit and supervise the primary age kids, in order for the kind of online education that my school has delivered to be feasible. I have greatly disliked the “teacher blaming” that has been prevalent in the press and indeed in this article. How can you can say “the risk to teachers of infection has been greatly exaggerated” when UK schools have not been operating in a normal fashion since March? We simply don’t know yet what will happen to infection rates. But we do know that British classrooms are small and buildings overcrowded, with little outdoor space, by developed country standards. And no-one in government has seriously addressed the hundreds of thousands of students, and staff, who need to travel to school on public buses or trains (less of an issue in other developed countries where students attend schools closer to home and/or there are school buses). I am all for more innovative education but let’s not hold teachers accountable for decisions, infrastructure and economic and social issues that are not within their control!

  3. Posted 25/07/2020 at 13:21 | Permalink

    Independent school teacher – a couple of good points there but (1) I think your caution about the risks to teachers is excessive. As indicated in the link to a Times article in my text, there appears to be no evidence worldwide of significant pupil-teacher infection. (2) You are right that in some deprived areas state school teachers will have been busily engaged in supporting poor pupils, in my own middle-class location this doesn’t seem at all plausible, frankly. But I don’t like arguing from my own experience – what I’d like to see are some government or Ofsted figures on the proportion of school students who have received significant support during the lockdown. Given the initiative shown by the ONS in using new statistical sources to track the economy, the DoE could surely have done something similar for schools. That they haven’t suggests that the reality is closer to the picture I sketched than they’d like to admit.

  4. Posted 26/07/2020 at 11:28 | Permalink

    An excellent piece. I seem to remember when I was involved with children’s education in the 1990s that the government of the day did introduce a voucher system at reception level or below. The vouchers could be used across state and private sectors. The scheme was administered through local authorities and there was a bit of jiggery pokery going on but exactly why it fissled out I cannot remember. Worth investigating; James Tooley might have the answer?
    The response by the independent schools teacher does include useful valid points, but it does not refute the idea of vouchers. I would also add that a lot of state funding has gone into capital works and schools so not sure why there is overcrowding etc except that indigenous population growth and immigration has probably accelerated child numbers at a fast pace.

  5. Posted 27/07/2020 at 16:31 | Permalink

    The Guardian seems to endorse the view that private schools have done much better than state schools during lockdown.

  6. Posted 16/08/2020 at 19:14 | Permalink

    Lets go back to before 1870?
    Perhaps not

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