REV DAVID FAREY: Debate on state schools versus independents

Our schools are getting ready to shut up shop for the Christmas holidays. Some, mostly private schools have already broken up.

Friday, 16th December 2016, 5:00 pm
David Farey SUS-160113-102615001

Being married to a teacher I am extremely aware of just how hard our teachers work. It is a calling which is apparent in the selfless dedication of teachers in the hours they spend in preparation away from parents’ and children’s view.

Last week the Independent Schools Council offered to part fund 10,000 places for low income families if the Government contributes the normal amount it would spend on a child’s education which is £5 550 per child per year. It has sparked something of a debate. There is an inference that the education an independent school can offer is better than what the state provides. It would certainly appear on the surface that independent schools produce children that are more motivated and able to achieve and produce better exam results. The flip side is the assumption that the state system is producing the opposite.

One debate I heard raised the prospect of the independent schools only taking the high achievers away from the state schools. If this happens then the state schools are going to be in an even worse condition. But what that argument fails to take into account is that there are state schools which provide the motivation and right conditions to inspire and bring out the best in their children. I have personal experience of children in the state system who are high achievers.

I think there are two broad factors. One is money. The state system is suffering from increasing cuts to funding. Our economy is still affected by the bankers’ errors of a few years ago which is now potentially being made worse by Brexit. Schools are being pressured to produce better and better results but with fewer resources, while private schools offer the standard of education that people with more resources are able to afford.

The second and probably greater factor is the human element. Most people can usually recall a teacher of such calibre that had genuine compassion for the children in their care, matched with a gift for being able to inspire and draw out the best of their pupils. That alongside a family life which encourages learning and a desire to achieve is a winning combination. Those factors can be present whether the child is in the private or the state system.

So in the Christmas break when there is a pause in the rush and stress spend a moment to say a prayer of thanks for all our teachers and that they will return refreshed in the New Year to inspire the children in their care.