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Privilege, Inequality and Education: Britain’s Private School Problem

Celie Hanson

photo of prof. francis green

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Privilege, Inequality and Education: Britain’s Private School Problem

About Francis Green and this TKS episode:

In this episode of The Know Show, Hussain talks to Prof. Francis Green, a Professor of Work and Education Economics in University College London Institute of Education. He discusses the huge problems with the private schooling system in Britain, drawing on his book Engines of Privilege, which he co-authored with David Kynaston. Listen to hear the way Francis articulately unpacks the ways private education is set up to benefit the society in which we live, and ways that we can push to reform this educational apartheid that exists. He clearly explains the way private schools are linked to the top universities and careers, and why it is so important we tackle this historical and entrenched system that persists. He shows why money should not be able to buy education, and highlights the inequality this bestows on society.

 

A brief synopsis:

Francis makes it clear that he is not advocating for abolishing private schools. He does, however, think there are many people within the sector of education who would like to see reform. Prof. Francis Green is a founding member of a group called ‘Private Education Policy Forum’ which looks into the possibilities of reform through research. Francis and Hussain agree that the existing education system reflects inequality within society, and that it needs serious attention.

There are various reforms that could be undertaken. My favorite reform is one which is reasonably major, which would be an obligation on private schools to gradually take in a contingent of our state school children.

Prof. Francis Green

 

Why we need to reform private schools:

Francis explains that private schools have more resources per pupil than they need, including multiple assets such as pools. Alongside this, state school have experienced continuous cuts to resources. We need to concentrate on improving state schooling, investing in it, and focusing on integrating private schooling with state schools across the country.

There are other options for reform too. Approximately more than three quarters of private schools have a so-called charitable status. Francis explains the ways that private schools would have to raise their fees to maintain their increased funding if they gave up this charitable status.

He goes on to outline that while students at private schools are often part of the elite, and thus often possess an engrained experience and feeling of privilege. Francis claims that private although a background of privilege contributes to the way people act in the world, private schooling is incredibly effective at providing students with self-confidence, and a certain way of being and approaching life.

The children that come in already have a high sense of self-esteem because they come from wealthy families. But they might not have a sense of confidence, this control is a different side of attitude.

Prof. Francis Green

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He points out that this sense of entitlement among students may not necessarily be linked to specific lessons from the school curriculum. Instead, it comes from the concentration of high wealth and highly successful people, and the way this feeds into the atmosphere of the schooling space.

 

Educational apartheid:

Francis critiques the way that private schools benefit from, and help to maintain, the elitist society in which we live and where wealth remains concentrated in the top 1%. Private schools work to ensure these networked bubbles of remain and that opportunities in society continue to be divided and largely determined by wealth. For example, as many as 70% of high management jobs are never made available to the public, instead working through these elitist networks which begin in private schooling and the connections made in these spaces.

He highlights that education and affluence go hand in hand. Francis explains why affluence impacts your career and the way you are able to access opportunities, in which paying for education largely enhances. He makes clear that the educational apartheid separating private schools from our state schools deploys our national educational resources unfairly; blocks social mobility; reproduces privilege down the generations; and underpins a damaging democratic deficit in our society.

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TKS take home points:

In this TKS episode, Hussain and Francis talk about the inequality between private schools and state schools, how privilege works in society, and how the unequal distribution of resources deprives state schools. We learn about why private schools should not be charities with three times as many resources as state schools, and about the ways we can begin to pay attention to and thus tackle inequality in the educational system. Ultimately, the discussion centres around the core belief that money should not be able to buy education in a world where wealth has power.

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