Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Liberals and independent schools

Alison Willott, whose liberalism cannot be questioned, has a letter in today's "Independent". It is a response to criticism of Nick and Miriam Clegg's reported uncertainty over whether their children's imminent secondary education should be at state schools.

John O'Farrell (Voices, 28 January) does not consider the main reason why people pay for a private school. It is because they offer choice.

We wanted our children to be able to study ancient Greek – it was my own degree and my mother's and we are passionate about the subject. We also wanted a school with excellent music. Some state schools may offer these but the only way you can access them is to move house into their area. Since we lived within walking distance from both sets of grandparents, moving house was not an option.

And yes, our children did go on to read Greek at university. Their music experiences were sublime; and they did cross-country running, and fencing, and drama, and debating. Their schoolmates, incidentally, came from a wide range of backgrounds.

We chose to pay for this, and had to economise accordingly: [...] I'm perfectly happy with that – it was our choice, but please don't say we are the ones being subsidised.

Make all state schools offer excellent music, drama, sport, fencing, debating, car maintenance classes, photography classes, as well as small classes and a wide range of subjects to study, and private schools will wither on the vine. It's the state schools that have to change.

Alison Willott


What I want to know is whether daughter Jenny intends to include the Iliad in her bedtime reading for her young family.

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