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HM's Blog #72: Abolish Eton

Blog #72

(It has been a while: sorry for that! Have needed some inspiration…)
The ticking crocodile...
I suppose it would be rather ‘bad form’ (as Captain Jas. Hook OE would say) for me to suggest the abolition of a former employer but there are certainly other hounds - or perhaps crocodiles - baying for blood at the moment. By 'abolishing Eton’, those that want to of course equate 'Eton’ as meaning all independent schools. Because they are all so alike (!). One only has to look at any media article that mentions independent schools, accompanied by photographs of boys in gowns and tails - or perhaps boaters if they give the other place on the hill some consideration - to realise that most journalists neither understand the schools photographed or get close to understanding the independent sector in general.
Even writers who are alumni seem to want to bring the place down. Although I have some time for some of the sentiments expressed in Musa Okwonga’s article published in The Guardian this week, I feel that he is a little bit behind the curve. Eton - like virtually all independent Schools - has long, long since realised that it has to balance privilege with responsibility and through substantial investments in bursary funding and meaningful partnership work has given transformative opportunities to young people who would not have had a chance to benefit, something that seems to be ignored in the media.
'Here's to Johnny Plank...!'
I won’t be the only Head - or parent - in the country concerned about the political traction that is being gained by anti-independent school activists and feeling that we are being edged closer towards the plank.
'John McDonnell backs 'Abolish Eton' debate at Labour conference' | Education | The Guardian
Shadow chancellor says private schools ‘don’t need to exist’ in a society with education equality
My role prevents me from being party political but regardless of politics, any campaign movement on whatever topic does need to have facts at its fingertips and there are a few that spring to mind that ought to be part of any debate about the future of independent schools.
  1. Abolishing independent schools contravenes human rights laws. This should be something that any politician or journalist left of centre (at least!) should be worried/embarrassed about. James Tooley wrote a compelling piece in The Telegraph last Saturday on this point. You might need a subscription to read it, I’m afraid!
  2. Independent schools contributed (according to The Independent Schools’ Council 2018 survey) £11.6 billion to the economy in 2017, generated £3.5 billion in tax revenues and supported 257 000 jobs. The survey undertaken by Oxford Economics even goes as far as to estimate a 3.6% shortfall on GDP had independent schools have ceased to exist in the 1940s. ‘Abolish Eton’ should do the maths…
  3. Independent schools educate well over half a million pupils. There might be just a little strain on the state sector in absorbing these students?
  4. If the idea really is to absorb all endowments, which include charitable and legacy donations made in good faith to support the work of institutions, is there not both a legal and moral case to answer in so-doing…?
Good form...
It would be lovely to live in a world where the work that Christ’s Hospital has been doing for decades with children from disadvantaged backgrounds gets column width, or to read about the work that Rugby School has done in inspiring the work of the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation which currently places 465 children in just over 60 independent schools, including Freemen’s.
Perhaps the leaders of today who were educated in the seventies and early eighties do not do so well under scrutiny but I have every confidence that the leaders of tomorrow, educated in similar schools in the mid-nineties and beyond might be able to stop the rot…
Learn. Lead. Make a Difference.