Head attacks ‘posh school’ hypocrisy of politicians

Ministers who send their children to top state schools are hypocrites for attacking privilege at independent schools, a headmistress has suggested. This is from the Times…

Marion Gibbs, who runs James Allen’s Girls’ School (Jags), in Dulwich, South London, said politicians who chose to use elite schools in the state sector were “hardly hug-a-muggers”.

Some grammars, prestigious faith schools or high-achieving comprehensives, such as those attended by David and Ed Miliband, or Tony Blair’s children, had more wealthy pupils than many independent schools, she said.

Nick Clegg revealed this week that his son, Antonio, will go to the Oratory, a Catholic state secondary school in West London, where Mr Blair sent his sons. It is rated outstanding by Ofsted and more than 90 per cent of pupils pass five GCSEs, including English and maths. The Deputy Prime Minister attended Westminster School, which now charges £30,000 a year for boarders, and had not ruled out sending his son to an independent school if the family could not find a good state school.

But Mrs Gibbs said it was “lazy shorthand” to assume all fee-charging schools had “posh” pupils, and that she was disappointed by recent “vitriol” directed at independent schools.

She said: “It really hurts me when people say ‘posh, posh, posh’ about independent schools, then they talk about Eton and Winchester. It’s lazy shorthand. Our school was founded to educate the poor and we have tried to do that ever since.

“If you’re a Miliband and go to a very nice school in North London, or a Blair sending your children to the Oratory, it’s hardly like being a hug-a-mugger in the state system. It’s very easy to equate rich, middle-class privilege with private schools, but there is plenty of middle-class privilege at all sorts of schools in London. We probably have more children entitled to free school meals at our school, than some grammar schools.”

Mrs Gibbs said that her school had 47 home languages, large numbers of ethnic pupils and more than 100 assisted places. She added that the school’s sports complex had 5,000 community users, including seven other schools.

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