Private schools' 'corporate greed' is pricing out middle-class families, former St Pauls' headmaster says

Posted on: 2018-04-14 08:00:00

In a new book, titled The English Public School, Dr Stephen argues that while public schools are “highly resilient, they are not immortal”.

He explains that there are two “crucial” threats to their existence. “The first is the increase in fees that has placed a public-school education beyond the reach of the middle-class families that have been their bedrock for most of their history,” Dr Stephen said. 


“The greed that has driven fee increases lies at the door of poor governance, and too many governors whose eyes rarely take in more than the good lunch they get at a Governors’ meeting.”

He said that while the greed of public schools has previously been associated with corruption and a “desire to line one’s own pockets”, this no longer applies.

Dr Stephen wrote that nowadays, “private greed has been replaced by corporate greed”, as schools seek to lure their potential clients with state of the art facilities, and raise fees to “astronomical heights” for overseas students.

It is “the greed of those who see a market and people willing to pay more and more for their child’s education without asking too many questions”, he said.

Dr Stephen said that the loss of charitable status would not do particular damage to private schools since it only “confers a relatively small financial advantage”.

The “real killer blow” to private education, he argues, would be if the discourse on access to higher education led to universities introducing quotas to restrict the number of public-school pupils.

Yet another threat to fee-paying schools is the improvement of state education, and the growth of grammar schools, Dr Stephen said.

“Public schools survive because people who can afford it will do anything rather than send their children to a bad school, and too many state schools do not pass muster,” he wrote.

Dr Stephen is a former chair of the Headmasters and headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), a group representing the country’s leading public schools.

He taught for ten years at Haileybury College, a £32,000-a-year boarding school in Hertfordshire, and later became headmaster of The Perse School in Cambridge. 

He went on to be appointed as headmaster of Manchester Grammar School, a £12,000-a-year day school, before taking up the post of High Master at St Pauls’ Boys’ School in London whose alumni include George Osborne, the director Jonathan Miller and the veteran broadcaster John Simpson.

Source: The telegraph

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