Shake off state shackles;Letter;News and opinion

10th December 1999 at 00:00
IT IS a pity that you donate so much space to the dismissal by Professor Brighouse and Tom Bentley of Professor James Tooley's ideas (Friday magazine, November 26).

It is Professor Brighouse in particular who appears not to be wholly in touch with the realities of the situation. The facts are these: that over the past 30 years (the era, note, of comprehensive-school reform) the percentage of children in private schools has increased from 5 to 7 per cent (a 40 per cent increase); that surveys have shown that about 50 per cent of parents would take up private education if it were affordable (a seven-fold increase on the current situation); that private schools are universally admitted to achieve the highest standards (and this is proven by the league tables) and it is therefore their practice, and not self-proclaimed Government policy, which keeps up standards.

Moreover, private tuition of state-school pupils - particularly at secondary level - provides a hidden but doubtless highly significant support for their standards.

As a private tutor myself,mainly for A-level and GCSE, I find that most of my pupils are drawn from the best-achieving comprehensives in and around Cardiff (and these, according to The Times' Parent's Guide, the best state schools in Wales).

The TES also reports that in perhaps as many as three-quarters of Welsh primary schools children are being tutored for grammar-school entry.

Going a step beyond both Professor Tooley and Sheila Lawlor I would claim that education doesn't need "privatising", it is already freeing itself from state shackles, and that the best the state could do would be to foster the process, by giving tax rebates for private education in whatever form. This would make its benefits far more widely affordable.

Such a policy would be wholly justifiable on the grounds that "going private" actually supports the state, either by relieving the burden on its schools, or by supporting them in the teaching they can't do.

NJN Probert

29 Cae Caradog


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