Monday 4 March 2013

Class Discussion

None of the three main political parties has ever had any policy of abolishing commercial schools.

Those schools may or may not be any good, in that they are simply proficient at putting people through the profoundly flawed examination system created by Margaret Thatcher and Kenneth Baker.

They may frequently embody the views that adolescence ought to be lived out in single-sex residential environments while the relationship between parents and children ought to be strictly financial and nothing more. Their products may therefore support the likes of Thatcher's Children Act.

What one thinks of them may now be bound up with what one thinks of the takeover of Britain by Russian oligarchs, by Arab princes, and by that strange new transatlantic class of the famous for being famous and of the rich for making them so.

But none of the three main parties has ever had any policy against them.

Labour and the Conservatives have both done all manner of things to the state education system, the latter for more than half the time since the Butler Education Act, brought in as it was by a Conservative. The 1988 Education Act was by far the most significant in the period since 1944.

Yet it is only ever Labour, and now Lib Dem, politicians who are accused of "hypocrisy" or what have you if they opt out of the system that they themselves have created or are at least administering, in favour of an alternative which they have never sought to dismantle. Conservatives are never asked the same question. Why not?

In point of fact, Nick Clegg contested the last General Election on a manifesto commitment to abolish the religious character of state schools in admissions, and in staff appointments other than RE. Yet he now he sends one son, and doubtless two more in due season, to the London Oratory. Funny how no one is calling him out on that.

The products of the London Oratory, lovely though they are, are quite possibly the poshest people whom I have ever met, and far more so than their commercially London day schooled contemporaries, or even than my Old Etonian erstwhile housemate. I have known people teach there and actually believe that it was a private school, presumably until the pay cheque arrived. I am told that that misperception is also widely held among those living in the London Oratory's vicinity.

That school is is one of those half a dozen or so London private schools which have the effrontery to send their bills to the taxpayer, but which are far more difficult to get into than many an institution with no such brass neck. They are the equivalents of the Lenin High School, Havana.

Another is the Haverstock that produced the Milibands and Oona King. The Milibands had previously attended the same primary school as Boris Johnson, who of course went on to the same secondary school as David Cameron, and we all know which one that was. Ah, Thatcher's Britain...

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