I’ve always supported removing the tax breaks that private schools benefit from by classifying themselves as charities. I was once warned that being quite so forthright in my opposition wasn’t particularly smart in a city like Edinburgh where nearly 25 per cent of secondary school-age children go to fee-paying enterprises, but nevertheless I persisted.
I completely understand why some parents, with means, choose to send their children to private school. They, like every parent, just want the absolute best for their child and they have the money to pay for.
I wish they didn’t feel the need though and, for as long as a state education in Scotland falls short, private schools will exist.
What I can’t stand though is where the aching gap between the prospects of state and privately educated children is perpetuated by systems our legislators are in charge of.
In 2014, the SNP Government introduced a new fee for young people to appeal their exam results. If your child wasn’t feeling too great on the day of their Higher English exam, or just had a bad day, turning out a B when all the expectations and prelims pointed to an A grade, your school could appeal to the SQA and hope for a better result.
Since charging was introduced, the cost of appeals is being born by schools who can least afford it and fewer appeals are being submitted. Nearly three time as many appeals are being put forward by private schools who have none of the state school’s budgetary constraints.
This policy might have saved the SQA £800,000 a year, but at what cost to those pupils who just missed out on the grade they needed for uni and whose school can’t afford the fee?