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Book of the week : A very private people

Public or Private Education? Lessons from History Edited by Richard Aldrich Woburn Press pound;18.95 pbk

I am grateful to this book for providing me with the following quotation from Ronald Gurner, a one-time master at Marlborough school, writing in 1930: "It is difficult, if you are a country solicitor or doctor of any standing, to contemplate with equanimity the possibility of your son sitting side by side with the son of your junior clerk or chauffeur - better send him to St Cuthbert's on the south coast. The fees are high, and you are not certain as to exactly what is the standard of education... but there are no board-school boys there, and in the things that matter your boy will be safe."

Board schools had technically ceased to exist some three decades earlier, but we shall let that pass. This long-forgotten schoolmaster spoke honestly as to what was, until very recently, the main reason for going private.

Read more in this week's TES Friday magazine

Peter Wilby is editor of the New Statesman

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