Country folks' story is a schooling myth

2nd January 2004 at 00:00
So - the old argument about independent versus state schools has now reached The Archers! With Ruth and Jill representing one side and David and Phil the other, we're hearing again some of the old myths about private educaion being the province of the wealthy, whose children expect to inherit the family fortune and have no need to work.

I thought those old saws had been laid to rest with the publication of The Privileged Youth report by Ledbury Research. It contradicted many stereotypical ideas while pointing out that former private school pupils - who make up almost 10 per cent of all 20 to 30-year-olds - tend to be high earners with over 75 per cent owning a car and 34 per cent owning their own home. They also tend to be confident about their abilities.

As the head of an independent girls' school in Teesside, I know that many students do not come from a privileged background. I believe that the decision to make a significant investment in your child's education is an important one. The willingness to sacrifice material benefits - new cars and holidays perhaps - to ensure that your child has the best educational opportunity possible does mean that parents have an active interest in what is happening in the school.

The curriculum in independent schools is not constrained by national criteria and children are encouraged to study several languages, music and art as well as the core and foundation subjects. They have the opportunity to join societies, play in teams and generally "have a go".

Independent schools are thriving communities where the individual really does matter. Small classes and dedicated teachers mean that children develop confidence in their own abilities and are given the opportunity to excel both within and outside the classroom.

Young people with a strong belief in themselves and their own abilities have the inner confidence to meet the challenges of the 21st century and make their mark. Independent schools with their focus on the whole person inevitably create successful individuals.

If Pip Archer and her family make the decision for her to attend the local independent school, she may well see her dreams of becoming a pop star realised! At least she will be well equipped and confident to make her own career decisions when the time comes.

Hilary French Headteacher Teesside prep and high school Eaglescliffe, Stockon-on-Tees

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