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Private Education

Duration:
43 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 20 February 2013

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said last year that "the overwhelming dominance of privately-educated schoolchildren in Britain is corrosive for society." But, interviewed on radio recently, he said that he would not rule out a private school education for his own son. Is it every parent's duty to get their children the best possible education - even despite their political principles? Or is Nick Clegg just a hypocrite?
Last week Maria Hutchings, the Conservative candidate in the Eastleigh bye-election, said that it would be impossible for her gifted son to become a surgeon if he were to attend a state school. There were cries of outrage - not least from the medical profession. Some studies show that young people do indeed do better in life if they've been to public school. Is it immoral for parents to be able to buy a competitive advantage for their offspring? Should parents sacrifice their children's future on the altar of their principles, or is it the duty of a parent to get their children the best possible education, irrespective of their own opinions about what should be done to reform the system? Are we as a nation becoming increasingly hostile towards private education? Heads of independent schools say the government wants top universities to tip the balance in favour of admitting candidates from state schools, and that's not fair. These heads are also worried about the threat that their schools might lose their charitable status. Is that - as some have called it - just the politics of envy?
Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Michael Portillo, Melanie Phillips, Giles Fraser and Matthew Taylor. Witnesses: Francis Gilbert - Local Schools Network, Jan Murray - Guardian writer/contributor, Dr Martin Stephen - Former High Master at Manchester Grammar School and St Paul's School in London, and a former Chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, Dreda Say Mitchell - author, broadcaster and educational consultant.

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