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Should schools like Eton encourage kids from poorer backgrounds?

3 years ago

Kelly Rose Bradford writer
Kelly Rose Bradford Journalist and broadcaster London, GB
No. They should not. The comments from Tony Little, the headmaster of Eton College, that private schools have a 'moral imperative' to open their doors to poor pupils sounds fair enough, but the realities would be far less all-encompassing and inclusive.
My son starts senior school in September. We live a 20 minute train ride from Eton College. Could it really be possible that my boy, the son of a single parent, herself a child who grew up on a council estate and has nothing more than a handful of GCSEs to her name – could be Eton material?
I clicked on their website to find out. 
'About 20% of the boys currently at the school are receiving financial support, and some of them are paying substantially reduced fees or indeed no fees at all', it told me. 
'No parents with a talented boy should feel that Eton is necessarily beyond their means,' it continued.
Fabulous stuff, but it is not all about talent and help with fees, is it? My son is very academically able. He has been to a brilliant prep school which I have worked my backside off to pay for, but at the end of the day, he still comes home to a little suburban semi. We don't have relatives who have been Prime Minister, own country seats, or go to the polo. I drink pints of bitter and drive a 10-year-old Citroen. And no matter how talented my child is, those facts would remain. His home life, upbringing and our finances would always put him on the periphery in a school like Eton, no matter how well he did in the exam hall and how generous his bursary.
Mr Little's 'moral imperatives' might be admirable, but the reality is, they would create a bigger divide between the haves and have-nots than ever. My son is staying in the private sector for secondary, but again, as with his prep, at a school where all the parents are on an equal footing – working hard just to pay for their children's education. Meaning all the kids are equals, too. 

(pic: ell brown on Flickr)

What do you think? Should parents of all backgrounds strive for their children to attend public schools like Eton? Tell us in the comments below. 
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Opinion 3 years ago

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