Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Are Tristram Hunt’s plans for private schools a class war or just a bit pointless?

Tristram Hunt has managed to get a great deal of attention for his proposals for private schools helping out state schools, with even his own (private but sufficiently stuffed with Socialist children to be OK) alma mater getting rather annoyed at what it calls a ‘tasteless’ policy which espouses ‘what some might deem an offensive bigotry’. In summary, the Shadow Education Secretary wants to make the £700 million worth of tax breaks that the private sector enjoys conditional on the schools helping those in the state sector by sharing facilities, deploying teachers to help out with lessons, and making sure that they participate in the same leagues for sports, debating and other activities where private schools often only compete amongst themselves.

This is being interpreted as an angry class war attack on people who can afford (often only just about) to send their children to private schools. And indeed Hunt did turn on his special Estuarine accent that he uses whenever he’s drawing class dividing lines between Labour and the Tories. But there won’t be that many voters who will disagree with the idea of private schools working more closely with state schools: indeed, it sounds rather nice. Hunt isn’t proposing token collaboration in return for these tax breaks, though, but the following rather tough standards:

– All private schools should provide qualified teachers to help to deliver specialist subject knowledge to state schools.

– All secondary private schools should assist with expertise to help get disadvantaged state school kids into top class universities, including Oxbridge.

– And all private schools should run joint extra-curricular programmes where the state school is an equal partner.

That last point applies to debating competitions, sports matches and the like. Schools competing against one another in local leagues sounds especially uncontroversial, and indeed many schools already do that.

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Isabel Hardman
Written by
Isabel Hardman
Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

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