Paying the price of failure

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Peter Wilby's review of the book Public or Private (Friday magazine, February 13) predictably censures the so-called "privilege" of private schooling. This addiction to the idea of "privileged toffs" is ludicrously out of date.

His historical perspective is likewise wrong: claiming that, despite supposed shortcomings in the state sector, private schools currently take "barely" 8 per cent of children, he ignores the fact that over the past 30 years this figure has grown from 5 per cent. Perhaps the state's opting for comprehensive schools has something to do with this.

Curiously, elsewhere in the paper Mr Wilby recognises that the state can no longer deliver a satisfactory education. Therefore parents must pay for some reasonable standard.

But the logic of his argument suggests that the state should back off from its near total involvement in education by encouraging, through tax rebates, those who wish to go private to do so.

But, instead, he proposes to attack the private schools' charitable status, a measure which would not abolish these schools but raise their fees, making them even more exclusive.

Clearly, we have a political agenda designed not to uphold standards of education but simply the power of the state.

Nigal Probert


North Wales

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