Nadhim Zahawi is the latest in a long line of hypocritical Tory education secretaries who urge state schools to “do better” while denying them the necessary resources (Editorial, 16 May). To add insult to injury, he implies, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that state-educated students who overcome difficult personal circumstances in gaining admission to prestigious universities are examples of “tilting the system” and have not been selected on merit.
In fact, admitting students on merit is one of the areas in which Oxford and Cambridge universities have shown marked improvement in recent years, which explains why the proportion of students admitted from state schools is much greater than it used to be.
Of course, some parents who have shelled out a fortune on school fees may feel upset if their children are only be able to go punting on the Backs as tourists and attend May balls as guests, but they should not worry. In their landmark study of 2017, carried out at the LSE, Aaron Reeves and Sam Friedman showed that if you go to the “right” school then you don’t have to worry about A-levels, university or any of that stuff – you’ll still end up in a top job.
Campaign for State Education
• How disappointing to hear a secretary of state for education spouting the worn-out rhetoric of meritocracy (Zahawi rejects idea Oxbridge should ‘tilt system’ to accept more state pupils, 14 May). Having spent 30 years as a teacher in a comprehensive, I have had the privilege of working with students who have gone on to some of Britain’s fantastic universities.
In those 30 years, only a few ever applied to Oxford or Cambridge. They simply didn’t think it was a fit for them. It was too posh. These were A-grade students who could intellectually hold their own with most of those they would meet at these elite establishments.
The Oxbridge idea, however great the work done there, still upholds the creaking class system of this country. So how sad to hear a government minister say the problem is one for state schools. Another levelling up promise seen for what it is – empty rhetoric.
Birkenshaw, West Yorkshire
• You rightly highlight the stark division between private and state schools. In light of its levelling up policy, perhaps the government should consider Frances Ryan’s proposal that private schools be stripped of their charitable status (Private schools don’t act like charities, so let’s strip them of the benefits, 16 August 2018). The money saved by the exchequer could be redistributed to state schools.
Why should hard-working but poorly paid taxpayers subsidise the education of the already rich and powerful? If the present government does nothing about it, I look forward to seeing this proposal in the next Labour party manifesto.
Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire
• How ironic that, just at the time when the education secretary was trying to defend private schooling, his Eton-educated boss was revealing how the spoon-feeding of privilege has led to his own incapacity to work without constant supervision (Boris Johnson says cheese and coffee can distract when working from home, 14 May).
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