Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Gove, Cameron and the myth of ‘state vs private’ schools

Will David Cameron send his kids to a state secondary school, as Michael Gove is doing? Today’s papers are following up James Forsyth’s suggestion that Cameron will slum it as well. But this story takes, as its premise, the ludicrous notion of a binary divide between private and public. In fact, anyone lucky (and, let’s face it, rich) enough to get into a good state secondary in London has no need of going private. And this is arguably the greater scandal.

I can offer an example. I’m house-hunting the moment, and last weekend viewed this cramped wee house, with poky rooms, listed for an outrageous price. But the estate agent justified the premium by explaining: ‘It’s in the catchment area for Tiffin School’ – one of the best schools in the land, with attainment better than most private schools. Whoever buys that house would pay about £150,000 more than the property would be worth just outside the catchment area. But you’d be buying access to one of the best schools in Britain. A father of three could save well over £150,000 on school fees. That’s how it works in Britain: you game the system. There are some state schools that millionaires could not afford.

Can someone – ideally Fiona Millar – please explain why this is acceptable? To me, it sounds appalling. The left tends not to be angry at the way the state system gives the worst education to the poorest kids. Newsnight’s Chris Cook once demonstrated the single greatest scandal: that our state system has a direct link between poverty and attainment. Here it is: he called it the Graph of Doom. (And should have won an award for demonstrating this).


According to Lloyds, a house near a good state school typically commands

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