My low-cost private schools could transform Britain

 James Tooley, professor of education policy at Newcastle University and champion of low-cost private schools in developing countries around the world writes in The Telegraph. Peter Wilby, erstwhile New Statesman editor and no friend of private education, wrote a Guardian profile concluding that he liked me (I like him too), that I was jolly (read: plump) and that I was a “dangerous” man.

“Dangerous” because I said I wanted to open low-cost private schools in England. My heresy was to propose fees lower than the per-pupil spend in state education. The first school has just opened, the Independent Grammar School: Durham charging fees of £52 per week (£2,700 per annum). 

I’ve long thought it odd – and deeply undesirable – that UK independent schools cater only to the elite. Only the wealthiest can afford average fees of £15,000 per annum. 

Our Durham school offers a traditional education, strong on discipline and the foundations of knowledge. We won’t eschew rote learning where we think it beneficial.

We’re focused on the north-east of England, aiming to open a chain of schools from Bishop Auckland and Middlesbrough, through Sunderland and Gateshead, to North Shields.

As the movement of low-cost private education expands, perhaps a national newspaper will highlight that parents (or their sponsors) in schools like ours are paying twice for education, through taxes and fees. A campaign for educational tax credits or vouchers could then ensue, changing the face of state education forever. 

I’m getting ahead of myself. Now, not everyone approves of what we are doing. The teacher unions have picketed all our parent evenings, giving out expensive-looking glossy leaflets condemning our endeavour.

The fact that the teacher unions are unsettled is perhaps the biggest compliment anyone could have paid us. It seems they realise that many parents will desire this alternative to state education. They’re afraid of us succeeding – yes, that we’re dangerous. One wag said the way to shake them off is to triple our fees.

Read the full article My low-cost private schools could transform Britain

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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