Chris Parry has missed the point

It is possible to extract some coherent argument from what Mr Parry has said. One may certainly question how he seems to have amassed such a general knowledge of the state school system and its failings but that aside, he raises out some key points. The key concern for me is that private schools are not an answer for everyone and therefore it is irrelevant whether or not the government “recognises” why private schools operate so well. Parry fails to mention further reasons for private schools being so successful: they have much more money to play with and can poach better teachers by offering them better wages; they are working with a wealthy clientele who can provide their children with top quality materials such as a books and stationery; they are not obliged to accept large numbers of pupils and therefore regulate their intake to ensure they can maintain small classes of easily manageable children and adolescents. These are just a few further reasons why private schools do so well.

However another question Parry fails to answer is why, according to The Times ‘Schools League Table’, 7 of the 10 schools in the top 10 are state schools. When it comes to “excellence”, state schools tend to beat private schools. Of course, these aren’t ordinary state schools, but grammar schools. Indeed, the first two schools in the top 10 are Colchester Royal Grammar School and Colyton Grammar School. Parry seems to compare the worst state schools with the best private schools which is a rather pointless exercise. Indeed, John Bangs’ rebuttal is particularly relevant: “It’s that kind of ill-informed, snobbish idea of state schools which opens up the divide between sectors that I don’t think most private school heads would support.”

It seems clear that Parry has revealed a very clear issue with the Labour governmentÂ’s approach to education and grammar schools in this light. Despite the efforts of Harold WilsonÂ’s administration to stamp them out in the mid-1960s, they still flourish and demonstrate that meritocracy is a better system than plutocracy or nepotism. However, they are an endangered species of education that needs protecting. Fortunately, when David Cameron announced a lack of support for them he was shouted down by the Tories and performed a U-turn. Unfortunately, Gordon Brown is still in power for the time being and is not a supporter. Grammar schools only now exist in an ever-decreasing number of counties and their lack of existence is causing them to become more plutocratic. This is through no fault of their own but richer families are now moving to areas with good grammar schools and are paying for private tuition in the hope of ensuring that their children pass the 11+ entrance test.

The state system could, in theory, beat the private system. But with the government continuing on its current path, people like Chris Parry are going to keep taking potshots with ever-increasing accuracy and resonance.

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