Anthony Seldon, the headmaster at leading public school Wellington College in the UK, has proposed making wealthy parents with a combined income of earnings totaling more than £80,000 a year pay a fee for their children to attend schools such as his own, which costs only £33,000 a year to attend, to increase social mobility and essentially break the “the middle class stranglehold” on such institutions.
His proposal, which was laid out in a report for a cross-party think tank called the Social Market Foundation and presented to major political parties, received an icy response from ministers, reports Cahal Milmo of The Independent.
Dr. Seldon has defended his reforms, stating that his proposals were primarily designed to ensure that the least well-off had better access to higher quality education by introducing means testing at state schools.
The reforms would also have private schools set aside a number of places for low income students to attend to attend as well so the domination of seats available at leading state schools won’t all be filled with the offspring of parents who can easily afford it and pay for extra tuition. The fees would be coupled with requirements for the best performing schools all around to save seats for students from lower income brackets.
Dr Seldon told The Independent: “The problem with social mobility is now so chronic that we have to do something more radical. What these proposals do is get the bottom 25 per cent of society into top state schools and into independent schools.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of UK education watchdog Ofsted, warned last month that the widening gap in pupil attainment meant education was becoming “two nations”. He has previously warned that grammar schools are “stuffed full” of middle-class pupils and make no contribution to social mobility.
The goal of Seldon’s proposals would be to narrow the gap between the academic results and career prospects of the richest and poorest children by using a portion of the money raised through the application of a sliding scale to determine how much extra tuition wealthier parents should contribute per term for their students as a way to fund more teachers and therefore achieve smaller class sizes to facilitate all students’ learning.
Another portion of the funds raised with his proposals would be retained by the school of enrollment, with the remainder being distributed among other state schools.
A spokesman for the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, said: “This will not be Conservative Party policy.”
Despite this, Dr. Seldon continued on to share that the effects of the policy his proposal encouraged would not serve as an aid to private schools by persuading wealthier parents to switch their children to independent education.
He did include in his report submitted to the Social Market Foundation that he did believe that public schools should emulate private schools, who he stated as being better models of education, by more closely encouraging private school features of house systems, boarding, longer school days and strict enforcement of uniforms and codes.