Readers respond to a Robert Verkaik article about subsidies given to private schools
Robert Halfon, chairman of the House of Commons education select committee, is right to defend the principle of “continuity of education” for government staff serving overseas (which applies to the MoD, FCO, DfID and families from other departments).
However, he is wrong to say that use of exclusive, eye-wateringly expensive “public” schools by government staff at taxpayers’ expense is due to the lack of availability of state boarding schools (Charitable status? Critics take aim at subsidies given to private schools, 5 February).
We are a DfID/FCO family serving overseas and our children attend a UK state boarding school, but there are only relatively few families like us who do choose this option. Why would you, when you can draw down almost double the amount of allowance and access the most exclusive and well-resourced education in the country? The FCO fee ceiling is £31,710 per year (for senior full-time boarders). Our state boarding school costs £16,752.
The reason that most families serving the government overseas don’t have children in state boarding schools is that currently they don’t have to.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
• Sorry Mr Halfon, but whatever tinkering is done to the access arrangements for genuinely disadvantaged children, some of us would still mind the “arrangements where the state pays fees of some middle-class children”. Almost daily we read reports of children’s centres, public libraries and other local services being closed or run down as funding is withdrawn or reduced. These are services that have the biggest impact on the genuinely disadvantaged and have been cynically targeted by the obsession with austerity. Julie Robinson of the Independent Schools Council argues that private school subsidies support “many talented children”. Does this reveal the real motive behind their bursaries: to increase the successes of the private system by further reducing the opportunity for talented students to succeed in the state system? Until we have politicians on the left prepared to commit to real reform of this divisive system, the inequalities it creates will continue and increase. In the meantime, private education should lose its charitable status and the public subsidies that go with it.