'Championing the rights of children'

Private and state: the best school for each child

Garry Sat 15 Nov 2014 07:23

Sending one child to private school and one to state, sounds like a recipe for familial resentment, Liat Joshi Hughes explains why it doesn't have to be.

It’s a Monday morning in Monmouthshire and while 16-year-old Fergus Walsh dons his smart blazer before heading to his private school, sister Itsy, 14, throws on a blue New Look sweater ready to set off for the local comprehensive.

The decision their mother, Liz Walsh, took to educate one child in the state sector and the other privately has ramifications beyond a contrast in uniforms. Fergus gets to spend days amid impressive facilities, including a 19th-century, Jacobean-style pile and new classrooms more akin to plush corporate headquarters. Itsy’s comp has a strong reputation but infrastructure that is rough around the edges.

As Walsh says: “Polystyrene tiles hang off ceilings and there are temporary classrooms that must have been there 20 years.” Class sizes at both Fergus’s school and the related girls’ senior school where Itsy could have gone are around 20; at Itsy’s they’re 30.

And then there’s the bottom line: Fergus’s school costs more than £14,000 per year; Itsy’s, not a penny. To some, the iniquity of spending a sum well into six figures on one child’s education (Fergus has gone private since pre-prep) and nothing on the other’s sounds like a recipe for familial resentment and insecurity.

This was certainly the case for privately educated Laura Jones [not her real name] and her siblings. Now in her early 50s, Jones explains that it’s not just the former state pupil who can feel aggrieved in years to come.

Her brothers and sister attended state schools, but by the time she reached secondary age, her parents could afford the private education they aspired to provide. Jones was packed off to a boarding school, initially as a day pupil and later as a boarder.

It caused a divide that persists even now and she still resents her parents for this. “The other girls were mostly from wealthy backgrounds and looked down on me as 'common’. I had a marked local accent so was sent to elocution lessons which gave me a 'received pronunciation’ accent. I was bullied by my brothers. They would put on a posh accent and say things like 'Lucinda’s daddy is picking her up in the Rolls’ and 'Are you having tea at the Ritz, then the opera?’

Read more... (Daily Telegraph - 15 November)