January 03, 2004

Stacking the Deck Against Private Education

The left wing of the Labour party is opposed to tuition fees and the introduction of the new "top-up" fees for university students. Well, at least in most cases.

They support the idea of charging those who were educated in private schools for the opportunity to continue their education. It has been proposed by the Governmentís London Schools Commissioner. Professor Tim Brighouse has called for an extra 10% charge to be levied on top-up fees for every year that a pupil spent at a private school.

Thus, if they spent all 14 years of primary, secondary, and sixth form education in the private sector, they would be charged an extra 130% of their top-up fee. If they completed their A levels in the private sector, this is an extra This means that if the top-up fee is £3000, as it will be for top universities, privately educated students will pay £6900. This is on top of the tuition fees (hence the term "top-up fee").

Professor Brighouse would discount this if the student leaves private school at 16 and does their A levels in the state sector. He claims the reason for the discount is actually to drive teachers out of the private sector. "This would tempt them into joining in with everybody in sixth form colleges and so on." I can't see how this would work. Does he think that a discount off of a surcharge is going to cause all the sixth-formers to flee from colleges of ancient reputation and outstanding results, leaving no jobs in the private sector?

The support for this idea in Parliament is exemplified by Jon Owen Jones, the Labour MP for Cardiff Central. He opposes tuition fees, but says that this idea deserves consideration. "If people have bought an advantage by going private, I donít see why the State should then give them virtually free university education." (Virtually free? Doesn't he remember that the tutition fees have already been here for some time? Doesn't he realise that top-up fees are going to be pushed through by the Government on whose backbenches he sits?) In other words, those who value their children's education high enough and can afford to educate them outside of the state system and the control of the National Curriculum should be punished. They should be held to a different standard.

It is like saying that someone who has bought private health insurance should have to pay for treatment on the NHS, even though they have paid the exact same taxes (or in all likelihood more taxes) to fund it.

Posted by david at January 3, 2004 03:33 AM | TrackBack