E-mails and comments welcome from teachers and learners of all ages.  
June 03, 2003
"... it does sound too good to be true ..."

At the end of last week, a friend brought a Telegraph article to my attention in paper form, but I spent the weekend linking, and have only just encountered it in its linkable version. It's about the headmaster of Newton Prep, in Battersea, London, and it's called "How I'd scrap state schools":

Privately educating every child in the land wouldn't be as costly as you might think, says Richard Dell.

Picture your local school. It is vibrant, happy, filled with excited teachers and motivated children. The resources are first-rate: computers abound, the library is overflowing with books, and the governors are thinking of buying new playing-fields.

So is this your local private school? Yes. And is this yet another school that is too expensive for ordinary people? No. This school charges no fees. It is entirely free, right down to all the books and trips.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it shouldn't. We could create the best independent education for all our children without charging any fees whatsoever. How this could be done is wonderfully simple.

Well, yes, it does sound too good to be true, but the piece conveys what is called infectious enthusiasm, and I intend to study it some more and I recommend that some of you people do also. I think I might even email this man. I wonder what he might say. Something like this?

So do not complain that governments are getting our education system wrong. They should not be running it anyway. Stop whingeing and start doing. We can revolutionise education in our country.

Stop whingeing. Sounds like he's been reading this.

Some of our greatest schools exist because individuals rather than governments invested in education. Four leading independents have just announced a return to their founders' ideals with regards to means-tested scholarships - providing, in other words, the best education for the neediest of pupils.

Despite myself, I am impressed. More research is needed.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:00 PM
Category: Free market reforms

"More research is needed."

Hasn't such research already been done? Two hundred odd years ago? By Adam Smith?

I'm a bit sceptical about this.

Smith observed that in schools which were funded by a wealthy benefactor, and did not permit the teachers to charge their students a fee, the teachers tended to neglect their duties and delivered a rather poor service.

The Scottish system of the time, which was funded mostly by fees, is believed to have done rather better.

Unfortunately, many Scots today seem to believe that the old education system in Scotland was an early example of socialised schooling, when it was nothing of the sort.

PS I still can't put HTML commands into my comments.

Comment by: Andy Wood on June 4, 2003 02:02 PM

I like the idea of educating the most needy. The most needy are the the most able. The testing should have nothing to do with family income, deprivation or race. It should, primarily, be "g" assessment to determine who can truly make the best of educational investment. The money, in the form of an individually-tailored package, should then follow the pupil through the school.

Under such a system sporting, musical, dramatic, artistic or any other useful talent could be picked up and encouraged.

The state system could utilise private schools if parents topped-up the fees.

At the very least, the dynamic of individualised funding would take us out of the dead, egalitarian debate about privilege ... and prevent "affirmative action" style programmes such as the useless Excellence in the City (800 million to discover but not admit that the sociobiologists are right!).

Comment by: Guessedworker on June 6, 2003 10:25 PM

Having taught in both private and state schools I can only agree with Mr. Dell's comments. The children in private schools are happier, more focused on learning and demonstrate fewer behavioural problems. One might argue that background and opportunities outside school shape these privileged few. Hold that thought! The basic facts are: children respond to energetic and enthusiastic teachers. They perform better. They enjoy learning. In the private schools that I worked in I was able to give 100% of myself to the children as individuals. I worked hard and I worked for them. In the state school I am currently working in I am working myself into the ground. Form-filling, assessing, answering to 'line managers', more form-filling, assessing the assessments. By the time I arrive in the classroom I am exhausted and decidedly worse-for-wear. On Monday last week, I actually found myself thinking that all the teaching I was having to do was getting in the way of my work!
If Mr. Dell is proposing a workable solution, let's embrace it. Teachers are not in the job for the money or promotion. They are there for the children. The state system is slowly but surely killing our passion, and this is having a knock-on effect that no amount of form-filling will correct.

Comment by: C.Patterson on June 26, 2004 08:02 PM
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