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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > April 2019 > Are private schools a blight on English society?

Are private schools a blight on English society?

YES Most private schools are good, often excellent: places of not only a high standard of learning, but also a range of character-building extra-curricular activities. This is not something that everyone on the left finds easy to accept. Nor was it necessarily the case a generation or two ago. But now it is the undeniable truth.

So why are they a blight? In short, because of economic inefficiency, democratic deficit and social blockage.

On the economic aspect, two fundamental facts encapsulate the grotesquely distorted use of our national resources, both material and human: one in every 16 pupils goes to a private school; one in every seven teachers works at a private school. Those teachers would bring far more educational benefit to our country as a whole if they were spread evenly across our schools.

The ongoing Brexit disaster—a battle lost on the playing fields of Eton—has pointed up the democratic deficit. It is no longer possible, as perhaps it once was, to view our privately educated rulers as like Plato’s virtuous “guardians” of society. Instead, we see a caste of privileged and entitled men (occasionally women) with necessarily only limited understanding of, and empathy with, the realities of everyday life (including state education) as lived by most people.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s April issue: Mark Damazer, the former controller of BBC Radio 4, tells the inside story of how the BBC has tried—and sometimes failed—to cover the political crisis that overshadows everything else. Elsewhere in the issue: Playwright and screenwriter James Graham profiles John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, as he takes centre-stage in the unfolding Brexit drama and Tom Clark examines the Independent Group and argues that they could well shake up the established political tribes. Also, Jennifer Williams highlights the growing gap between the haves and have-nots in Manchester—a city that is simultaneously experiencing a housing boom and a homelessness crisis.