Sunday, 2 December 2007

Letter to The Times on equality of opportunity in education

The Times
November 28, 2007
Opportunity for all

We would condemn a country which turned someone away from A&E. What is so different about education?

Sir,

In Britain it is possible to buy an education for your child, thereby increasing their chances of reaching a top university. This is possible either through the private school system (report, Nov 27) or by owning a house in the catchment area of a good state school.

This understandable parental instinct has hugely damaging repercussions for society, ensuring as it does that no government dares to treat access to educational opportunities in the same way as access to healthcare or the criminal justice system. We would rightly condemn a country which turned someone away from A&E or denied them a lawyer on the grounds that they couldn’t pay. What is so different about education, which perhaps more than anything determines an individual’s life chances?

John Slinger
Rugby


Have your say
The reason why education, health, transport, etc., in Britain are such rubbish is that the government is trying to "manage" them. When schools, hospitals, railways, etc. are put in the hands of people competent to run them they greatly improve and usually excel. There is no reason why the government should not provide excellent services - they just need to get their collective finger out and stop throwing money at the wrong problems.
Ross, Bristol,

Sir, The argument is spurious. It is possible to pay for improved access to healthcare, law and education in the UK, but it is also possible to access all three crucial services for free - or for contributing taxes. (Access to legal services is the least universal of the three unfortunately). Government's responsibility is to ensure that quality secondary education is available everywhere, so that parents gain no advantage by buying houses in particular school catchment areas. The scandal is the amount of money that has been spent while failing to do so. The majority of parents who pay for school fees make financial sacrifices to do so, and it is a travesty to suggest that the wealthy dominate the university applications process.
Martin Newlan, Windsor, Berkshire

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