Private school privilege is stifling our state education

Thursday, 14th October 2021

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Carlton School, which closed its doors in July

HOW many years will it be before the wealthy outnumber the rest in Camden?

The richer are getting richer in a borough where demand for fee-paying private education is booming and state schools are closing.

The latest stats show that 38 per cent of Camden teenagers are attending privately run secondary schools – up 4 per cent on two years ago.

That’s more than a third of the borough’s children with parents who are able to shell out £20,000 or so a year for their education. Is it possible to have a truly comprehensive school in a borough such as this?

It was not so long ago that Camden primary schools were officially named as among the very best in the country. That’s by-the-by if there are no children to go to them.

There were 700 fewer registered births in 2020 than in 2012 – down by roughly a quarter. These numbers are set to fall by at least another 20 per cent by 2031.

Many parents are not being given the chance to put their trust in Camden state schools. Space is the premium commodity that few on a modest wage can afford.

The cost of living is so high that the numbers giving up squashed lifestyles for a new start and a garden in the suburbs has reached exodus proportions.

Under the radar, a school-places crisis has been gathering pace and looks unlikely to be arrested. The future’s looking bleak with the recent closure of historic schools, like Carlton and St Aloysius, set to become routine.

All that life and energy and colour and sparkle of a primary school. What a loss it is to lose just one.

Many of the swish flats in the many modern developments shooting up all around us are either sold to investors and lying empty, occupied by young professionals or or simply not big enough to raise a family.

These projects do not even scratch the surface of the problem: a report to the children’s scrutiny committee this week admits the impact of new builds on birth rate figures has historically been “overestimated”.

Parents who can afford to are turning their backs on comprehensives because of the disparity in resources.

The gap in spending per pupil between private and state schools has doubled over the past decade. Despite government claims of record levels of funding from the Department for Education, the reality is that state school spending per pupil has flat-lined.

At its recent conference, the Labour Party committed to removing the charitable status from private schools and exemptions from VAT and business rates.

The extra funding would then be used to increase state school spending and would be targeted at pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is long overdue.

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