Friday, 21 January 2011

Letter TES January 21 2011

Public schools' secret? Er, all that extra cash ..

Whilst I would quail at the prospect of being identified as a total cad or bounder and tremble at the thought of a beating in the dorm after lights out, I would have to say that the TES Magazine article on public schools ("Class Act", January 14) was rather light on the charge sheet.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the public schools successfully operated a form of "social closure", shamelessly breached their original endowments and excluded local tradesmen, shopkeepers and artisans. They had become the exclusive preserve of the wealthy, the jaded aristocrats and rising industrial class.

Public schools were characterised by the games cult, anti-intellectualism, philistinism and the narrow curriculum. Their main aim was to inculcate "Christian manliness", as HH Almond, headmaster of Loretto, wrote: "First - character; second - physique; third - intelligence; fourth - manners; fifth - information."

By the end of the 1960s, public schools were still a 19th-century anachronism, reflected brilliantly in Lindsay Anderson's film If.

What is the "secret" behind public schools' "success"? It isn't hard to fathom - spending three or four times more on pupils compared to state schools; state-of-the-art facilities; academic selection via the Common Entrance Exam and smaller classes.

You also have to ask whether our society benefits from continuing to educate an elite in isolated, privileged environments. Does this lead to the haughty contempt that was evident in the scandal of bankers' bonuses and the MPs' expenses saga, with taxpayers' money used for the renovation of one's duck house and the cleaning of one's moat?

Richard Knights, Liverpool


Thursday, 20 January 2011

Eton School Uniform

At the start of a new school year the cost of the school uniform is a worry for many families. In the elite public schools uniforms represent an ostentatious display of wealth – money no object. There is still an insidious competition of blazers, scarves, hats, buttons, coats - all the insignia of power and privilege.

Eton is of the course at the pinnacle of this obscene rivalry and one-upmanship. The cost of the basic uniform runs to about £1,000, there are also those little extras like cricket whites and 'formal change' as its known, then there are the boat fees (£295). Eton has its own bespoke tailor, Tom Brown, that has supplied clothing for over two hundred years.

Eton Uniform



2 tail suits

£170 each


7 white school shirts

£12 each


7 white school collars

£6.50 each


6 front and back collars studs

£1.50 each


1 blue blazer

£95.00 each


2 pairs smart trousers

£45.00 each


1 pullover

£45.00 each


2 smart shirts, collar attached

£22.50 each


2 white (rugby) football shirts, long-sleeved with collar

£23.50 each


2 navy (rugby) football shirts, long-sleeved with collar

£23.50 each


2 navy football shorts

£8.00 each


1 Eton College track suit

£60.00 each


2 white polo-style shirts

£18.00 each




Uniforms were introduced into Rugby School by Thomas Arnold in the 1830s in order to inculcate discipline and obedience and to tame the dissolute sons of the gentry and landed aristocracy. Uniforms became symbolic trappings of fealty and dominance that projected the image of the institution. At the end of the nineteenth century each house had its own particular colours and badges, each sport could award blazers and caps.

Most schools in Europe don't have school uniforms, it is regarded as a rejection of militarism and conformity. In England schools spend inordinate amounts of time enforcing petty rules about uniforms. It's another example of how the public school ethos has infected the state system, schools seem to believe that sweaty blazers, a heraldic crest and school tie is a sign of a 'good school'.

Eton and the exclusive public schools with their cripplingly expensive uniforms is a way of enforcing the social hierarchy and keeping the riff-raff out. For everyone else there is of course Tesco with the complete school uniform at £3.75. Just don't turn up to Eton with it.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

TES Magazine January 14 2011

Public schools, supermarket adverts and mouldy grub kick up an online stink.

Earlier this month, The TES Magazine pondered what had happened to that "golden" generation of left-leaning, liberal teachers. So when Richard Knights, who writes an anti-public school blog (abolishpublic posts in The TES online staffroom that about two-thirds of the current Cabinet were educated at public schools, and only 10 at state schools, you might expect a left-wing battle-cry.

Instead, the response is surprisingly conservative (with a big or small "c"). As Lilyofthefield points out: "Successful committed parents throw money at their children's education. Children do well. Dog barks." Other posters point out that Mr Knights' findings only highlight that a public school education can do wonders for your career. "Most who had a privately paid education tend to not end up flipping burgers," says CelticQueen. Nomad, meanwhile, takes a less serious view. "I think (Mr Knights) should be de-bagged and given a jolly good thrashing after lights-out for being such a bounder."

TES January 14 2011

Still Boarding

During the 1970s public schools attempted to re-invent themselves, the need for change was apparent. The overwhelming image was fagging, boys beating boys, bullying, single-sex education, cold showers, over crowded dormitories and rotten food. There was a move away from boarding education, some schools admitted girls and became co-educational, fagging was abolished and new dormitories were built with private accommodation.

Only 13% of pupils at public schools are boarders, however, it's interesting to note that many of the most exclusive and expensive schools are still single sex and/or mainly boarding. This isn't an attempt to name the 'top 30' public schools but based on tradition and expense...

School/ Percentage Boarding/ Boarding Fees

Charterhouse (Co-ed 6th Form) 95% £28,440

Cheltenham Ladies College (Girls Only) 75% £27,192 - £31,242

Clifton College 48% £27,300 - £27,750

Dulwich (Boys Only) 7% £28,971

Eton (Boys Only) 100% £29,862

Fettes 65% £18,735 - £25,860

Godolphin (Girls Only) 38% £22,143 - £23,661

Haileybury 69% £16,740 - £26,394

Harrow (Boys Only) 100% £29,670

Lancing 62% £27,750

Loretto 45% £13,965 - £25,305

Malvern College 80% £28,380 - £30,279

Malvern St James (Girls Only) 48% £15,345 - £27,825

Marlborough 95% £28,245

Oundle 77% £20,760 - £27,300

Radley (Boys Only) 100% £27,345

Repton 72% £27,150

Roedean (Girls Only) 55% £25,350 - £30,450

Rossall 43% £17,700 - £29,880

Rugby 80% £28,050

St Paul's (Boys Only) 2% £26,559

Sherborne (Boys Only) 90% £28,065

Sherborne (Girls Only) 95% £26,985

Shrewsbury (Co-ed 6th Form) 83% £27,300

Tonbridge (Boys Only) 58% £29,913

Uppingham 97% £27,375

Wellington 80% £28,785

Westminster 25% £28,344

Whitgift (Boys Only) 0% -

Winchester (Boys Only) 99% £29,970

So, how exactly does a single-sex, boarding school education in an isolated, cloistered, privileged bubble prepare you to be a citizen of the world?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Ruled by Boarding School Survivors

What does the Cabinet know about the lives of ordinary people? The majority are millionaires, two thirds of them were educated at public schools (attended by only 7% of pupils); the queues at hospitals are bypassed courtesy of Bupa; as for social housing, no need for that, there's the inherited mansion; public transport is, as Margaret Thatcher commented, 'for life's failures'; they never frequent council run leisure centres; lending a book from a library is unheard of and I'm sure that none of their friends or relatives have ever had to live on welfare benefits.

Eighteen out of the twenty eight members of the Cabinet attended public schools and in the main it's a roll call of the most expensive and exclusive. Fees tend to be around £28,000 per year for boarders and at least nine of the Cabinet were boarders. To put that in perspective, the average wage is around £24,000, so to pay for a year's boarding school you would need to receive around £45,000 before tax. Or to put it bluntly, only the super-rich could afford to send their children to Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse, etc.

According to the Independent Schools' Council (ISC) only 13% of their 508,234 pupils are boarders, however, in the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) schools the percentage is 20% and at the age of 16 the percentage for ISC schools is 30%. Also most of the really expensive and exclusive schools are overwhelmingly boarding – Eton, Charterhouse, Wellington, Harrow, Rugby, Cheltenham Ladies' College.

According to the ISC 8,000 children under the age of the 11 are boarders. David Cameron was sent away at the age of seven to Heatherdown Prep School and from there to Eton.

Many of the most exclusive schools are single-sex, or only admit girls in the sixth form – Eton, Rugby, Harrow. It's interesting to note that this kind of environment – single sex, living away from your family at an early age – has not been extensively analysed or investigated. Royston Lambert conducted extensive interviews with pupils in 1968, Joy Schaverin wrote 'Boarding school: the trauma of the 'privileged' child' in 2004 and there has been the work of Nick Duffell with the Boarding School Survivors.

A boarding school education involves a rupture in their attachment to their mother which can lead to a distrust of women. The worst features of male sexuality are often developed – detachment, obsessionality, alternately idealising and devaluing women and misogyny. As a result young boys can be impeded in their progress towards manhood and they may find it difficult to form meaningful relationships.

Attachments to siblings are disrupted and family is replaced by many, same sex strangers. As Joy Saverin noted

'The familiar position and role in the family, for example, as eldest or youngest, or only child – is substituted by a new role as the smallest person in a huge hierarchical institution. Brothers or sisters sent to the same school often lose touch with each other in the vast institutional dynamics.
'When the boy is sent to school and his sister or sisters remain at home the unspoken message that the girl receives is that her brother is valued more than she. Inevitably this produces envy and idealization, splitting the sibling group along gendered lines.'

In a boarding school pupils will have to negotiate the archaic codes, language and dress. Eton is still run by the school boy members of 'Pop' who are allowed to wear spongebag trousers and their own waistcoats. Other schools still have bizarre rules about how many buttons you can undo on your waist coat.

The English boarding school tradition is to inculcate conformity and unquestioning loyalty, for stoicism as opposed to emotion and humanity. There are those contradictions – modesty and courtesy opposed to icy formality; kindness against derisiveness and fair play compared to contempt for 'outsiders'.

Many children at boarding schools have an overwhelmingly feeling of abandonment, of loneliness and isolation. Child rearing is left to nannies and the school matron. As they grow up their peer group imposes conditions of belonging and in some instances this may include conformity and bullying. As they reach puberty identity and belonging is identified with a group outside of the family unit.

Some children exhibit a 'survivor mentality', a sense of shame at being privileged, their parents have made sacrifices, it is for 'their own good', they may feel like ungrateful failures. In response they construct a 'false self' due to extreme psychic wounding. They may become completely institutionalised where they cannot function outside of a closed environment. In that sense Oxbridge, the Army, the Civil Service, the City or the Gentlemen's Club may serve as an extension of their boarding school experiences. They have no sense of the world outside.

There was an interesting article in 'The Times' on September 14, 2007 it was entitled 'What were their parents thinking?', it was written by Julia Noakes who has worked as a psychologist in the City of London for thirteen years. She noted that a fifth of her 500 clients had attended boarding school. Being sent away at an early age often bred 'distrust of women and a fragile, insecure sense of sexual orientation'. Some of her clients felt that they had been abandoned by their mothers, this rupture of early attachments led to a deep distrust of loving relationships. She concluded,

'The irony is that for all the aspirations and hopes of the parents who send their children to boarding school, it does not prepare young people to be our future business leaders. Leadership requires an ability to relate to others as well as yourself and create dependable relations across the firm. Taught to count on himself alone from as young as five or six, the boarding school survivor does not depend on anyone but his fragile self and his often odd views about relationships. This makes building a business community of trust rather than brittle relations almost impossible.'

Boarding school does prepare children to be part of a self-perpetuating elite, it helps them to foster those all important networks and acquaintances that will help them to navigate their way through medicine, the legal profession, the media. A vital introduction into many careers is through unpaid internships and the Old Boys' and Old Girls' Associations are an excellent conduit for these positions.

The English ruling class don't expect to suffer any check, control or questioning on their actions or decisions. It's startling to observe the arrogance and disdain as bonuses for bankers are questioned or the kind of contempt that surrounded the issue of MPs' expenses – Duck houses? Cleaning the moat?

So we are left with that part of the unreconstructed ruling elite – repressed, emotionally stunted and unable or unwilling to consider other people's lives away from their enclosed cosseted environment.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Cabinet - 65% Public school educated

EtonDavid Cameron (Prime Minister); Oliver Letwin (Cabinet Office); Sir George Young (Leader of the House)
Current fees; Day (Does not apply); Boarding only(£29.862) – Boys only

WestminsterNick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister); Chris Huhne (Energy)
Current fees: Day (£19,626 - £21,282); Boarding (£28,344) – 25% boarders, Co-educational in the sixth form

St Paul'sGeorge Osborne (Chancellor)
Current fees; Day (£17,928); Boarding (£26,559) – Boys only

RugbyAndrew Mitchell (International Development)
Current fees; Day (£10,299 - £17,475); Boarding (£28,050) – 80% boarders

RadleyOwen Paterson (Northern Ireland)
Current fees; Day (Does not apply); Boarding only (£27,345) – Boys only

CharterhouseJeremy Hunt (Culture)
Current fees; Day (£23,505); Boarding (£28,440) – 95% boarding, Co-educational in the sixth form

WellingtonLord Strathclyde (Leader of the Lords)
Current fees; Day (£21,570); Boarding (£28,785) – 80% boarders

Cheltenham Ladies' CollegeCheryl Gillan (Wales)
Current fees; Day (£18,528 - £21,174); Boarding (£27,192 – £31,242) – 75% boarders, Girls only

BrentwoodAndrew Lansley (Health)
Current fees: Day (£13,560); Boarding (£24,345)

Abingdon Francis Maude (Paymaster General)
Current fees; Day (£13,905); Boarding (£28,515)

Nottingham High School Kenneth Clarke (Lord Chancellor)
Current fees; Day only (£7,446 - £10,872) – Boys only

King Edward's BirminghamDavid Willetts (Universities)
Current fees; Day only (£9,900) – Boys only

Robert Gordon'sMichael Gove (Education)
Current fees; Day only - (£6,270 - £9,765)

HMS ConwayIain Duncan-Smith (Work and Pensions)
Current fees: School closed in 1974

St Juliana's Convent School for Girls – Theresa May (Home Secretary) From the age of thirteen educated at a state grammar school which then became a comprehensive during her time as a pupil.
Current fees: School closed in 1984

Ten of the Cabinet were educated at state schools – William Hague (Foreign); Liam Fox (Defence); Vince Cable (Business); Eric Pickles (Local Government); Philip Hammond (Transport); Caroline Spelman (Environment); Michael Moore (Scotland); Danny Alexander (Chief Secretary); Baroness Warsi (Without Portfolio); Patrick McLoughlin (Chief Whip)