What exactly can Harrow tell us about social mobility?

29th January 2010 at 00:00

If there is one thing I dislike more than being patronised, it is being patronised by someone who clearly doesn't have a clue about what poor children and young people are up against ("Poor children being short-changed with soft subjects, slams Harrow head", January 22).

To get some children even to consider university is the challenge and to succeed will have a huge impact on their social mobility. Don't for one moment let Harrow head Barnaby Lenon offload the responsibility on people like me who actually get to work with "poor children". As if we would somehow set out to dissuade able youngsters from aiming high. What world does Mr Lenon live in?

In the country's "bog-standard comps" there are many who work very hard to raise the life chances of young people from all sorts of backgrounds. For our brightest, whatever their background, we visit Oxbridge colleges, hold masterclasses, invite representatives from the professions and seek out role models from under-represented groups to help impress on our most able young people that they really can do it.

But then they think about what it will "cost" to break into the world in which Mr Lenon's charges appear to take for granted. The "costs" are profound - a significant shift from the context of young people's lives, their schooling, their peers and friends.

All this before we begin to explore the extra effort they must make to get their hats in the same ring as those from schools like Harrow. To put Mr Lenon straight on this, it his establishment - the independent school cartel, and those within the universities and the professions who have been recipients of public school privilege - who are "short-changing" these young people.

Barry Wratten, Headteacher, Churchill Community Foundation School and Sixth Form Centre, North Somerset.

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