A tory council in England is [was vaguely] considering whether it can [could] make arrangements to fund the places in private schools of pupils whose parents might lose their jobs. Labour politicos are trying to use this as a political football. Let’s be clear where we should stand:
- The state should not fund private schools. If people want there to be private schools, then fair enough, in general they should make their own provision for their own funding.
- The state should, in general, fund the education of children whose parents do not elect to send them to private schools.
All that aside, when a child is established in a school, be it private or public, in the event that parents find themselves unable, through redundancy, to pay the fees for their children, it does not necessarily follow that the child should be made to suffer by being removed from the school:
- There may be psychological issues resulting from being sent down from a school due to lack of funds
- There may be excellent educational reasons for the child not to change school, such as subjects already invested in not being taught at a local state school
I am arguing that, in these exceptional and unpleasant cases, the council should be able to use discretion in supporting the needs of the child to remain at the school, so long as:
- There is a rigorous means-testing to establish that the parents cannot in fact pay the fees
- An assessment is performed to ascertain whether there is adequate high-quality provision in a local state school
- The fees are not exceptionally high
- There are objective criteria established in each individual case
- There is no expectation that all the fees will be paid by the local authority: parents should still pay as much of the fee as they are assessed they can afford
- The fees can only be paid for the length of one qualifications cycle: up to 16 to cover GCSEs or from 17-19 to cover A-Levels
If these criteria were met, I find it difficult to see how Labour could argue that opposition to the discretion of the local authority is anything other than the continued operation of the politics of class hatred. We must put the children first, whether they’re the children of the poor or the children of the recently unemployed. I would expect more compassion from the Labour party to the children of the unemployed than I’m seeing right now.