Sunday, August 28, 2022

The royal family should send their children to state schools

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In the past year I have read two good books about the British and private education.

Sad Little Men: Public Schools and the Ruin of England by Richard Beard looks at what the experience of being sent to boarding school at the age of eight does to the psyches of those who grow up to lead us.

And Posh Boys: How English Public Schools Ruin England by Robert Verkaik looks at how these schools operate and how they have fought of all attempts to reduce their influence.

The other day Verkaik sent this tweet:

The BBC News report he was commenting on tells us:

William and Catherine want privacy and a rural setting for themselves and their three children - George, nine, Charlotte, seven, and four-year-old Louis.

All the children will be starting at nearby Lambrook School, a private co-educational school near Ascot in Berkshire.

The school's prospectus says it has "first-class teaching and superb facilities" - including a 25-metre swimming pool, a nine-hole golf course, an orchard with bees, chickens and pigs, as well as woodland where it says children can get muddy.

Sending their three children there as day pupils will cost more than £50,000 a year in total, presuming no sibling discounts.

The golf course sounds like something out of an absurdist comedy, but it's noticeable how private schools  now trade ("children can get muddy") on their freedom from the straitjacket imposed by the Gradgrinds at the Department for Education.

But why not send royal children to state schools? There are security considerations, of course, but if they can be overcome at private day schools they can be overcome there too.

I used to be fond of quoting a passage from We Should Know Better, a book by the former Conservative minister George Walden. It's just as relevant today:

In no other European country do the moneyed and professional classes - lawyers, surgeons, businessmen, accountants, diplomats, newspaper and TV editors, judges, directors, archbishops, air chief marshalls, senior academics, Tory ministers, artists, authors, top civil servants - in addition to the statistically insignificant but eye-catching cohort of aristocracy and royalty - reject the system of education used by the overwhelming majority pretty well out of hand, as an inferior product.

In no modern democracy except Britain is tribalism in education so entrenched that the two main political parties send their children to different schools.

It's not just that sending George et al. to a state primary would "send a signal", as people always say, it's that the wider experience of life this would entail would make them better able to do their job as royals later in life.

At present things are so bad that Charles and Diana's decision to send their sons to Eton - sparing them the absurdities of Gordonstoun - looked like a beacon of reform.

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