Until half past eight yesterday morning I was a little concerned for the future of private schools. They haven’t helped themselves by offering only a premium product, replete with Olympic-sized swimming pools, drama centres and other fripperies – ignoring demand from parents who could afford £5000 a year. Moreover, some state schools have improved hugely in recent years, undermining the case for sending your kids private.
But then I heard Holly Rigby, co-ordinator for a movement called Labour Against Private Schools – or #AbolishEton, as it tags itself on Twitter – on the Today programme.
Independent schools could not have hoped for a better recruiting sergeant. As well as being a left-wing political activist, it turns out that Rigby is also an English teacher in a London school. If she was my kids’ teacher I wouldn’t worry about the expense – I would want them out of the school as soon as I could. In a rant full of glottal stops and ‘yeah’s, Rigby summed up exactly what is wrong with some state education – never mind knowledge, never mind reasoning ability – it’s attitude wot counts.
Naturally, Rigby continues her activism on Twitter, where she proudly describes herself as a 'Corbynista'. If there ever was a proponent of the politics of envy it is Holly Rigby. She visited Wellington College seemingly just so she could tweet photos of the school’s facilities, saying she wished her school in Newham could have them. She told the Today programme that there are two schools of thought in Labour Against Private Schools – either they should seek to destroy them through ‘slow euthanasia’ – by taxing them – or just get on with seizing their assets so that state schools can enjoy them.
It doesn’t seem to occur to Rigby that if you abolish private schools the state is going to have to pick up the tab for educating the seven per cent of pupils who are currently educated in the private system. I don’t think Eton’s assets are going to go very far against that bill.
I don’t care what private political views teachers have, but I know I wouldn’t want my kids taught by someone who might see their pupils as an opportunity to mould into their own way of thinking. If you think private schools are too dominant in national life there is a way of attracting parents away from the independent sector – by improving state schools through offering an intellectually rigorous education.
Who would want to spend £15,000 on a private day school if there was a free alternative that was just as good? But when the choice is between having your children educated and having them indoctrinated in Corbynite politics, then for most of us there really isn’t much of a decision to make.