In Britain, where people are divided by their background and social class more than any other country it can be argued, an apparent issue at the forefront of society remains, does private education breed social tension?
Do children who are able to have a private education separate themselves from society and from those who attend a state school? In my opinion, yes, I have witnessed this for myself. Attending multi-school events stood in a state school uniform, with the eyes of the local private school looking down upon me as if I’m a lower class citizen. Am I or many others less important merely because my parents did not pay £3000 a term for me to be educated? I think not.
It is time for society to discuss this issue properly and passionately, for this issue will continue to divide society, and in a time of austerity, social division is increased beyond its average levels. However, it may also be true that those who have had a state education are the ones who are marginalising private school pupils from the rest of the society.
Alan Bennett, a successful playwright, recently contributed to the Guardian on this very issue. “I do believe that if private education was abolished, and we only had one system of education, the whole atmosphere of this country would alter” he said. Alan’s words in my opinion resonate with many people across our country, and will also be highly criticised. If we live in a country with one education system, where everyone has the same opportunity at the start of their education, then surely society in Britain would me more fair. A society where the factory worker’s son and the chief executive’s daughter have both had a state education, then their success would be achieved knowing they had the same opportunity at the beginning of their life.
But, in Britain, we live in a democracy and therefore this divisive issue should have balance and should be fairly debated. It is true that everyone should have a choice and, therefore, if parents choose to have their children educated privately then this decision should be respected.
I believe that there is an appetite in society to abolish private education. A drastic belief I know, but a belief that I trust would make our society as a whole much fairer and a belief that would loosen the reins of social division. If we could all live in a society in which we were given the same opportunity from the beginning, then I believe we would lead much more fulfilling lives.
Now, many of you reading this article may conclude that I am merely jealous that I wasn't fortunate enough to receive a private education, that conclusion I can insist is wrong. I am proud to be a product of the state education system, an education that has served me well and enabled me to attend university.
I will leave you with the words of my former headmaster; “Just because you have had a state education, it does not mean that you are any less important than others you may have been more fortunate than you.”
By Joshua Godfrey