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Private is too posh for state pupils

Children fear classmates would be 'stuck up'. Michael Shaw reports

Only a fifth of state secondary pupils say they would go to private school with most of the rest deterred by fear of posh classmates.

This was among the findings of a Mori poll by the Sutton Trust charity of more than 2,500 students.

The survey found that more than 80 per cent thought their school was either excellent, very good or fairly good. Only 20 per cent preferred the idea of a private school. Many of these said they believed they would do better in exams, have smaller classes and work with better-behaved young people.

Most pupils, though, said they disliked the idea because their friends would be at different schools and their new classmates would be "too poshstuck up".

Far fewer said they felt the lessons would be too hard (19 per cent) or that they were not clever enough (16 per cent). Pupils who made these comments were more likely to be girls or to have jobless parents.

The clear preference for state schools is in marked contrast to parents'

surveys which have shown that many would like to send their children to private schools if they could afford it.

Peter Lampl, the Sutton Trust's philanthropist founder, was encouraged that 66 per cent of students said they enjoyed school most of the time and a further 5 per cent enjoyed it all the time. However, he said he was concerned that nearly a quarter did not like it.

"Students disaffected by their schooling in this critical age are in a minority, but we must guard against complacency," he said.

"We should take seriously their views that lessons need to be more interesting and that more practical and vocational subjects should be provided."

Those who disliked school were asked what they thought would make it more interesting.

A wider range of courses and more vocational options which are at the heart of the Government's plans for 14 to 19-year-olds only interested a fifth.

Far more popular suggestions were "less homework" (70 per cent), "lessons that are more interesting" (54 per cent), "fewer exams or tests" (41 per cent) and "teachers that are less strict" (39 per cent).

"As might well have been expected, the archetypal wish-list of any self-respecting schoolchild emerged," the survey report noted.

The vote of support for state schools was welcomed by the Campaign for State Education and the National Union of Teachers.

However, the Independent Schools Council said it was disappointed at the stereotyped perception of the private-school pupil.

Dick Davison, joint director, said: "That image doesn't bear any relation to the truth. For example, 40 per cent of children at independent schools have parents who did not attend them."

Sutton Trust MORI Survey 2003 is available at www.Suttontrust.com

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