Any parents considering Dollar Academy are invited to take their car along its long driveway and park outside what looks like a palace. When I first did so with my parents, I told them that it all looked ridiculously posh. My mum flew into a rage. ‘Posh’ was a word of bigotry, she said, and one I’d best not use if I was going to survive a day in boarding school. My dad left school aged 15 and eventually joined the RAF, which was kindly paying for me to board while he was posted to Cyprus. He’d have loved such an opportunity, and wanted me to see it for what it was — and to forget any class-war language that I might have picked up in my old comprehensive in the Highlands.
I needn’t have worried. The stonkingly rich tended to avoid this (then) relatively low-budget school. The boarders tended to be the sons of farmers, traditionally sent to live away from home for a few years before going back and settling down. Or of Scottish servicemen who were keen to save their teenagers from being pinged between the Scottish and English education systems. All of us were at school just at the right time — before being privately educated started to be seen as an embarrassment. Which David Cameron’s government seems intent on turning into a stigma.
If he survives this month’s referendum, the Prime Minister intends to work on his legacy and he wants social mobility to be his bequest to the nation. His latest idea (or rather, the latest idea he has stolen from Ed Miliband) is that would-be civil servants should undergo a poshness test. The premise is simple: it’s not enough to help those from deprived backgrounds. True social mobility means identifying the children of the wealthy.