The average three-bedroom, semi-detached house in the UK cost £286,000 as of November 2015 (according to the Daily Express). The cost of putting a child through a 14-year private education in the UK stands at an average of £286,000, according to the BBC in July 2015. So, you could pay £286,000 for a house or an education—an education that you are entitled to elsewhere, free of charge. Is it worth it?
This leaves a dilemma for many parents, particularly middle class ones who earn more than the average income. Do they send their child to the local comprehensive on one side of the town with an average standing on the league tables and slightly aged facilities? Or to the private school on the other side of town with numerous Oxbridge alumni and glossy pictures in the prospectus of juniors wearing straw boaters and teenagers bearing over whitened smiles and perfectly straightened hair? With £286,000 as the deciding factor, I’d pick the state school any day.
As a student studying A-levels at a comprehensive sixth form, I cannot be more thankful to my parents for opting out of the many private schools that surround the Surrey Hills.
I know many people who have either gone through private education or who study there currently. Sure, they attained countless A*s at GCSE while I was personally disappointed with my three As, six Bs and one C. There’s no denying private school students have smaller classes, are challenged more, and receive more guidance and opportunities when applying to university. But does this make them any happier?
Even David Lloyd, headmaster of Solihull School, admits that ‘social and emotional learning is every bit as important as the traditional curriculum’. He states that ‘pupils who believe that their economic future and independence and happiness are wholly reliant on educational performance are at risk of stress and its many manifestations, and . . . educational leaders must work hard to promote education in the broader sense’ (published in the Daily Mail).
If you think about it, like pupils who have attended private schools, I too will travel, I will get a job, I will (hopefully!) go to university. The only significant difference is that their parents and guardians paid nearly £300,000 for their education, while mine was free.
“I believe that if you want to achieve something that badly, you will work hard, regardless of what type of school you attend”
My school is far from perfect: I watched many fights as a student in the main school; I witnessed rude and aggressive behaviour; I was taught by some teachers who, quite frankly, shouldn’t have been teaching. I swam a couple of swimathons and played a few netball matches, but my sporting ability was not massively encouraged or improved. My school does not have a chapel or famous alumni, nor even a gym or a languages lab.
But we have classrooms and computers. We have teachers that inspire. We can express our personalities, be young, and experience all the fun secondary school memories that many private school students have been deprived of. We have students from different races, families and backgrounds. We have a sense of community—we’re a family, one that I will be sad to leave.
I am now Head Girl of my school, and studying to attend a Russell Group university. Thanks to my state education, I have been made aware of both my abilities and limitations, and have become more confident as a result. I believe that if you want to achieve something that badly, you will work hard, regardless of what type of school you attend. Whilst I feel pressure to achieve, it is rooted within myself and does not stem from my school in an attempt to better their image. I do not face an added burden knowing my family has had to sacrifice other things in order to send me there. I’ve loved my educational experience, and it didn’t cost a penny!