Private schools are a British success story

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From Richard Hopwood, The Spinney, Brighouse.

ME Wright (Yorkshire Post, May 16), in moaning that private schools are the “incestuous, controlling bedrock of Britain’s them-and-us society”, seems to suffer from some unfortunately common misconceptions.

Far from being the scions of the ruling classes, most pupils in independent schools in West Yorkshire are the children of hard-working parents frequently struggling to make ends meet. Indeed, the sheer size of the fees at many of these schools means that, all too often, parents are left scraping around for money rather than counting their millions.

When my wife and I made the decision to send our own children to private schools, only one of us was earning a salary and that was a relatively small one.

As a result, we had to make serious sacrifices but the alternative at the time was a choice of struggling state primaries in Bradford, a city languishing near the bottom of the national league tables.

Nor were we alone. Of course there are some who are high earners, but any random selection of fellow parents would be likely to include nurses, bus drivers, hairdressers, shopkeepers and other small-business owners, united in the belief that they must do the best for their children.

These are not people who are removed from economic reality, as ME Wright seems to believe. And, for the most part, they would far rather pay no fees and send their children to the state school round the corner – which, of course, they support through their taxes – if only it were good enough.

The popularity of independent schools, and the academic achievements of their pupils, is a British success story and should be celebrated as such. It is, however, a symptom of the malaise in the state education sector, not the cause.