Andy Mcsmith

Why do my Labour friends send their children to private school?

Why do my Labour friends send their children to private school?

A good friend said something strange the other day. Her daughter, who is approaching her final school year, has asked if she can leave private school and go to the local sixth form college because she would like to make some new friends.

Her mother was brimming with pride as she relayed this news — pride, and relief, that her progeny should be so open-minded as to volunteer for the adventure of breaking loose from her peer group and entering a place where she will meet teenagers who are working class.

I should include a brief social profile, to put the anecdote in context. Our friend has a salaried public-sector job which brings her into contact with working-class clients every working day. I don’t think she will read these words, because I doubt that an organ so right-wing as The Spectator would find its way into her household. If she did not go out demonstrating against the Iraq war, it was because something else cropped up. She is a Labour voter through and through.

No surprise, then, that she should approve of her child’s willingness to mingle with the common folk. The great mystery is why — given their politics and general social tolerance — she and her husband parted with a small fortune so that their children could have an exclusive education.

And exclusion is what the game is all about. I vividly recall being caught once in a hotel abroad in a bar full of businessmen who were there for a sales conference, all senior managers from manufacturing firms. Over cigars and liqueurs, the talk turned to where they sent their children to school. Out popped the name of one famous boarding school after another, as each explained what determined his particular choice.

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