State schooling

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Daniel started high school last month and he’s loving it. I was worried about it all summer but I needn’t have been. He’s settled in so well, his best friend is in his class, and he’s enjoying the wide variety of subjects he gets to study now. He especially likes home economics where they get to cook yummy things. He’s never shown the least amount of interest in cooking at home but now that he’s doing it at school it’s suddenly his favourite subject.

Parents of school children in Scotland (perhaps all of the UK) don’t have to purchase anything – other than the uniform which is cheap – or pay any fees for public schooling. In New Zealand, there are “voluntary” school fees which aren’t really voluntary at all and when I was at school in Australia we used to get a long list of equipment and textbooks which we had to purchase each year. Most of my textbooks were tatty and second-hand, sometimes even an old edition. In Scotland, they don’t have to pay for anything, not even the ingredients needed for home economics. When I was at school we had to bring in all the ingredients. We don’t even have to buy notebooks for writing in here.

Daniel’s at a state-funded high school. Both Ben and I went to state schools and even if we were rich we would still send our children to state schools. Aside from being a colossal waste of money, I think you get a better education at a state school. When I started university I felt that my private school peers did worse or found it more challenging. My theory as to why was because they had been spoon-fed at private school and couldn’t think for themselves. It turns out this is not just my opinion but has some research to back it up. Research by the University of Cambridge found that students from state schools are more likely to get better degrees.

The researchers note how previous research has suggested two reasons for the finding: private school students may have lower incentives to perform well at university and therefore may invest more effort in social life rather than academic work; or they may have been ‘coached’ at school and subsequently struggle when they get to university.

The other reason we would never send our children to a private school is that we don’t want them to grow up with a bunch of spoilt and self-entitled peers. Yes, there may be spoilt and self-entitled students at state schools too but state schools are more representative of society as a whole. There’s more diversity and a greater cross-section of individuals.

Once you’ve left university it doesn’t matter which school you went to. I never put my school on my CV because it’s irrelevant but I do include my university education because that’s important and I’ve never had any problems finding work. Neither has Ben who went on to get two degrees at University – maths and physics and he’s now professor and head of department and the smartest and kindest person I know. I also have two degrees – science and business – and I have a terrific job.

Money can’t buy cleverness, kindness, or happiness.