Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Stop Knocking Private Schools
It's reported that nearly 50% of London 2012 medal winners come from a private school background.
"Unfair," say those who think private education is wrong in a modern Britain. "The percentage shows it's the privileged who achieve," is another oft heard remark about those who have had a private education.
Is a private education a privilege? Yes, although many children who attend private schools come from homes where money is tight but parents have decided to make substantial sacrifices to send their child/children to be educated away from the state system. These parents continue, through their taxes, to support the state education system and receive no tax rebate for opting out of it.
Why are there so many privately educated young people excelling in sport (as well as other subjects)?
One of the reasons is that the daily timetable for a privately educated child differs greatly from their state educated peer. Many schools begin lessons at 8.30am, have shorter lunch times and the academic day ends far beyond the 3.30pm of the state system. Hobbies such as extra-curriculum sports are undertaken outwith class hours and it can be compulsory for every child to have a number of interests. The extra time pupils and staff dedicate to such hobbies in their daily timetables show rewards.
Competition has always been prominent in private schools, yet it's not so long ago it was completely discouraged in state schools. Educators wanted all children to be 'equal' because being a loser could damage self esteem. A dreadful policy because not all children can achieve the same results. It surprised me how easily families accepted this without question and we created a generation of children who have little understanding of the words endeavour or effort. Medal winning Olympians are exceptionally competitive people and it's that quality which has enabled them to rise, through the ranks, to be the best.
What can be done to increase state educated children's participation in sport?
Education authorities could introduce a policy insisting that every child attends at least one extra-curriculum hobby once a week - be it sport or arts related. Not all areas of these require large financial contributions from parents.
Scotland has introduced a programme with the Active Schools Network which is progressing reasonably well but requires more professional coaches/teachers and volunteers. Volunteers are essential for those children who do not have family support.
England appears to be in a muddle.
Perhaps the most important aspect is time. That's where the private school sectors wins, because it realises a five-and-a-half hour daily timetable is completely inadequate for the inclusion of sport or the arts in a child's development. Most private school pupils have at least seven hour timetables with boarding schools providing mandatory weekend activities.
Instead of complaining about private schools producing 50% of Olympic medalists, shouldn't we be grateful for their systems and learn from them?