Wednesday 20 January 2010
The issue of public schools- private schools for those of you who are not English- is one over which I find it very difficult to be objective. I went to a very fine boarding school for girls, the finest in all England, so far as I am concerned. The environment- academic, sporting and social- was second to none, and it took a diffident eleven-year-old girl and turned her into a self-assured young woman, nurturing ever talent she knew she had, and discovering a few she did not know existed!
Did it encourage 'social separation'? Insofar as I understand this expression I would have to say yes, I suppose it did. We all came from privileged or very privileged backgrounds; but we were never encouraged to take a condescending view of other people, quite the reverse in fact. Was it elitist? Again yes, but I personally do not see anything wrong with this, because I take the view that excellence should be encouraged and nurtured.
For me it is ironic in the extreme that the assisted places scheme, that allowed bright children from less well-off backgrounds to attend public schools, was ended by a government headed by a man who himself went to a very fine public school in Scotland. It was simply an act of petty spite that encouraged more separation, not less.
Let me concluded on a personal note: if I ever have a daughter she will go to my old school! Yes, she will.