What particularly defines British private education is its extreme social exclusivity. A glance at the annual fees is relevant here. For secondary school, and even more so sixth forms, the fees are appreciably higher. In short, access to private schooling is, for the most part, available only to wealthy households. Overwhelmingly, pupils at private schools are rubbing shoulders with those from similarly well-off backgrounds.
In Germany, for instance, it is also low, but unlike in Britain is generously state-funded, more strongly regulated and comes with modest fees. In France, private schools are mainly Catholic schools permitted to teach religion: the state pays the teachers and the fees are very low. In the US there is a very small sector of non-sectarian private schools with high fees, but most private schools are, again, religious, with much lower fees than here. And so what, accordingly, does Britain look like in the 21st century?
A brief but expensive history, —, offers some guide.
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The chronicles of Hogwarts school begin. Martha Lane Fox Oxford High blows a dotcom bubble. Charlie Falconer Glenalmond masterminds the Millennium Dome. Will Young Wellington becomes the first Pop Idol. James Blunt Harrow releases the bestselling album of the decade. Northern Rock collapses under the chairmanship of Matt Ridley Eton. Life staggers on in austerity Britain mark two. Ed Balls Nottingham High takes to the dance floor. The statistics also tell a story.
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The proportion of prominent people in every area who have been educated privately is striking, in some cases grotesque. The only realistic starting point for an analysis lies with the assertion that, in the modern era, most of these schools are of high quality, offering a good educational environment.
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They deploy very substantial resources; respect the need for a disciplined environment for learning; and give copious attention to generating a positive and therefore motivating experience. Above all, private schools succeed when it comes to preparing their pupils for public exams — the gateways to universities. There are, of course, some very real contextual factors to these bald and striking figures. Any study must take account of where the children are coming from.
Nevertheless, the picture presented by several studies is one of relatively small but still significant effects at every stage of education; and over the course of a school career, the cumulative effects build up to a notable gain in academic achievements. Yet academic learning and exam results are not all there is to a quality education, and indeed there is more on offer from private schools. Lesser-known schools trumpet something similar. Four areas stand out. First, especially small class sizes are a major boon for pupils and teachers alike.
Third, the high — and therefore exclusive — price tag sustains a peer group of children mainly drawn from supportive and affluent families. Far greater resources are available for diagnosing special needs, challenging exam results and guiding university applications. The relevant figures for university admissions are thus almost entirely predictable. Top schools, top universities: the pattern of privilege is systemic, and not just confined to the dreaming spires. Going to a top university, it hardly needs adding, signals a material difference, especially in Britain where universities are quite severely ranked in a hierarchy.
Ultimately, does any of this matter?
Why can one not simply accept that these are high-quality schools that provide our future leaders with a high-quality education? Given the thorniness — and often invidiousness — of the issue, it is a tempting proposition. Yet for a mixture of reasons — political and economic, as well as social — we believe that the issue represents in contemporary Britain an unignorable problem that urgently needs to be addressed and, if possible, resolved. The words of Alan Bennett reverberate still. Those who pay for it know it. Those who have to sacrifice in order to purchase it know it. And those who receive it know it, or should.
Consider these three fundamental facts: one in every 16 pupils goes to a private school; one in every seven teachers works at a private school; one pound in every six of all school expenditure in England is for the benefit of private-school pupils. The crucial point to make here is that although extra resources for each school whether private or state are always valuable, that value is at a diminishing rate the wealthier the school is.
Each extra teacher or assistant helps, but if you already have two assistants in a class, a third one adds less value than the second. Given the very unequal distribution of academic resources entailed by the British private school system, it is unarguable that a more egalitarian distribution of the same resources would enhance the total educational achievement.
There is, moreover, the sheer extravagance. Multiple theatres, large swimming pools and beautiful surroundings with expensive upkeep are, of course, nice to have and look suitably seductive on sales brochures — but add relatively little educational value. The resources lift up children in areas where their rank position on the ladder of success matters, such as access to scarce places at top universities.
To the considerable extent this happens, the privately educated child benefits but the state-educated child loses out. This lethal combination of private benefit and public waste is nowhere more apparent than in the time and effort that private schools devote to working the system, to ease access to those scarce places.
What about the implications for our polity?
The way the privately educated have sustained semi-monopolistic positions of prominence and influence in the modern era has created a serious democratic deficit. The unavoidable truth is that, by and large, the increasingly privileged and entitled products of an elite private education have — almost inevitably — only a limited and partial understanding of, and empathy with, the realities of everyday life as lived by most people. One of those realities is, of course, state education.
It marked some kind of apotheosis when in July the appointment of Nicky Morgan Surbiton High as education secretary meant that every minister in her department at that time was privately educated. On social mobility, there has been in recent years an abundance of apparently sincere, well-meaning rhetoric, not least from our leading politicians.
We cannot accept that. The Social Mobility Commission, with cross-party representation, reported regularly on what government should do, but in December all sitting members resigned in frustration at the lack of policy action in response to their recommendations. The underlying reality of our private-school problem is stark. Through a highly resourced combination of social exclusiveness and academic excellence, the private-school system has in our lifetimes powered an enduring cycle of privilege. Based on the latter's undercover reportage at a San Diego high school, Fast Times at Ridgemont High explores the ins and outs of teen sexuality in comically honest fashion.
Richard Linklater's comedy follows the American Graffiti framework, examining the various social circles of the rising freshman and senior classes of an Austin, Texas high school on its last day in Five high school students from varying social classes—a brain Anthony Michael Hall , an athlete Emilio Estevez , a basket case Ally Sheedy , a princess Molly Ringwald , and a criminal Judd Nelson —spend a fateful Saturday detention together in John Hughes's classic teen drama.
Together, the five students learn they have much more in common than they thought.
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Type keyword s to search. Today's Top Stories. Advertisement - Continue Reading Below. Columbia Pictures. Amazon iTunes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the perfect contemporary teen sex comedy which follows, naturally, two teenage boys who vow to lose their virginity before graduation. Orion Pictures. Amazon iTunes Matt Dillon made his film debut in this cult classic about a planned community in a Denver suburb that closes down its local rec center, leading the bored teenagers to drugs and petty crime.
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Amazon iTunes Four students enter a prestigious high school in New York City dedicated to the performing arts. Warner Bros. Amazon iTunes Edward James Olmos earned an Oscar nomination for his stirring portrayal of the real-life Jaime Escalante, an East Los Angeles math teacher who inspires his inner city students to pass the AP exam in calculus. Buena Vista Pictures. Amazon iTunes Wes Anderson's anti-romantic comedy stars Jason Schwartzman as Max Fischer, a precocious teenager and unmotivated student who enters into a personal war with a wealthy donor at his prestigious academy over the affections of a beautiful young teacher.
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Amazon iTunes Nominated for eight Oscars including Best Picture and winning two for Best Supporting Actor and Actress , Peter Bogdanovich's stark adaptation of Larry McMurtry's novel remains one of the most realistic and somber reflections of teenage life. TriStar Pictures.
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Amazon iTunes Tina Fey's sole screenplay is based on the sociological study Queen Bees and Wannabes , which she ingeniously turned into a hilarious comedy that stars Lindsay Lohan as new girl Cady who is tapped by her high school's reigning popular girls to join their clique. Amazon iTunes Sidney Poitier stars in this iconic film, one that inspired countless imitations, as an American teacher in an inner-city London high school who shepherds his class of unruly, disrespectful pupils and inspires them to embrace their education and personal responsibility.
Amazon iTunes Undoubtedly the best high school movie that doesn't even take place in high school, this John Hughes comedy stars Matthew Broderick in the role that made him a star. Amazon iTunes Amy Heckerling wrote and directed this brilliant teen comedy, inspired by Jane Austen's Emma , which stars Alicia Silverstone in her most iconic performance as a ditzy, if well-meaning, Beverly Hills high school student who weaves a complicated matchmaking web—learning that it's ultimately better to be selfless than selfish. Amazon iTunes Reese Witherspoon delivers her best performance in Alexander Payne's dark comedy, playing the ambitious Tracy Flick, who is eager to become student body president.
Amazon iTunes Richard Linklater's comedy follows the American Graffiti framework, examining the various social circles of the rising freshman and senior classes of an Austin, Texas high school on its last day in Amazon iTunes Five high school students from varying social classes—a brain Anthony Michael Hall , an athlete Emilio Estevez , a basket case Ally Sheedy , a princess Molly Ringwald , and a criminal Judd Nelson —spend a fateful Saturday detention together in John Hughes's classic teen drama. More From Movies.
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