Fiona Millar: Our school system feeds our divided society

Writing in the Guardian, Fiona Millar says it’s not hard to see which children will suffer most from the funding cuts and it won’t be those from the top public schools….

…It isn’t hard to see which children will suffer most from the looming funding cuts and teacher shortages. It won’t be Eton and Harrow scrabbling around to find maths teachers; it will be schools in marginalised and deprived communities, thus jeopardising what progress has been made in recent years.

As heads and governing bodies start to manage unprecedented funding cuts it will be all those “extras” that get shaved off the budget, before teachers and less popular subjects face the axe, exacerbating the “two nation” state-private divide.

It is interesting to see the shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, today, after the election, calling for a more radical agenda. I agree that ideas of aspiration, equality and one nation are not mutually exclusive. One of the fundamental pillars of a socially cohesive society is surely the idea of mutual self-interest, reciprocity and concern for others less well off than us.

But in practical terms enabling aspiration for all almost certainly means chipping away at the extremely unequal school hierarchy and investing more money in the least well off, even if the rest of us have to pay for that. Anyone campaigning under these banners who hasn’t got the courage to say so should find another slogan…

More at: Our school system feeds our divided society


So what’s the solution here? Presumably it is effectively impossible to ban private education. Even if you could, would you then have to ban all forms of tutoring etc too? That’s not going to happen, is it.

So – and I think this is what Fiona Millar is getting at – is the only way to raise the floor rather than trying to lower the ceiling?  

This is why I was encouraged by the recent OECD study suggesting investment in building basic skills in this country would be returned several times over by the boost it would have on the economy.

I know many hate the idea of measuring education in terms of economic benefits, but surely its the easiest possible way of justifying the extra spending needed to bring about an end – or should I say a reduction – to the current levels of inequality?


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Categories: Policy.


  1. The Government has fed into this divide: academies/free schools good; ‘council-run’ schools baaaaad.  There are also those ‘good’ schools (usually aforesaid academies but also some faith schools) which have an ability range skewed to the top end despite supposedly being comprehensive (and then boast about how much better they do than neighbouring schools).  And state grammars – non-selective schools in selective areas are unfortunately deemed second class after the ‘elite’ grammars.

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