Labour’s plan to, in effect, abolish Britain’s private schools is pretty much the definition of pandering — a sensational and nakedly political sop to class resentment that is nonetheless counterproductive, unworkable and oh yes, probably illegal. Sure, nobody likes the British upper class (not even themselves) but banning private schools — which have been known to occasionally educate the less privileged — would be a case of throwing out the baby and none of the bathwater, since they would doubtless find another way to achieve more or less the same goals. Fortunately there is no way it is going to happen, point out a number of British commentators; instead it just reveals the unserious character of the partisans who support it.
- The Labour Party’s conference voted to “integrate” private schools (called public schools in the UK for additional clarity) into the rest of the educational system, which means seizing their assets and taking over teaching in the schools, notes Miranda Green for the Financial Times. The vote follows a rabble-rousing campaign with the inevitable hashtag, #AbolishEton, targeting one of the snootiest institutions.
- First things first: this is almost certainly illegal, prompting promises of a legal challenge from the Victorian-sounding Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference. For one thing the schools are technically charities and therefore fall under the purview of the Charity Commission, not the Department for Education; banning them would also deprive British families of choice in where they send their children to education, which would appear to violate the Human Rights Act, ironically passed by Labour in 1998.
- Schools thus threatened could also simply move abroad — or just as far as Scotland — to avoid the English law. Hey, the Isle of Man is said to be lovely this time of year! The Irish might even tolerate a boatload of young English toffs for the right price. And the U.S. would be happy to get all that
money, er, rich cultural traditions or whatever.
- Private schools are already more egalitarian than many think, points out Charlie Paice for the Adam Smith Institute: their need to constantly burnish their brand compels them to compete to send their pupils to the best universities — a sore point on the left, which fails to acknowledge however that this also motivates them to recruit the best pupils students regardless of background, offering scholarships and other inducements for bright children whose families can’t afford fees.
- Paice also notes that there are plenty of inequalities within the British non-private educational system, reflecting any number of local, regional, and bureaucratic distinctions.
- Finally Paice argues that there is a much better way to free up education for the non-upper-class-twits: school vouchers.