The Murdoch press has pitched some deeply flawed journalism recently, and the supposedly upmarket Times and Sunday Times are not blameless in this regard. But what has appeared on today’s Times front page is beyond even that: the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker have tried to pitch a hit piece, but instead have inadvertently alerted the world to a legendary educational institution in sad decline.
Stowe School first admitted pupils in 1923. Its first head, the legendary J F Roxburgh, “was always a ‘teaching head’ and made sure to teach every boy at some point in his time at the school”. Actor and author David Niven, one of those first pupils, said of him “How he did this, I shall never know, but he made every single boy at that school feel that what he said and what he did were of real importance to the headmaster”.
By 1939, “Charles Graves commented in the Daily Mail that ‘nearly 60% of the boys go to Oxford or Cambridge, which is said to be a higher percentage than that of any other public school’”. How times have changed. Now, under the headline “Private woe over rise of state pupils at Oxbridge”, we see Stowe’s current head, Anthony Wallersteiner, suggesting that the rotten proles are nicking the University places he thinks are his by right.
“The recruitment by Oxford and Cambridge of more state pupils had led to private school parents claiming that their children are being edged out by ‘social engineering’, a leading head teacher has said” begins the Times article, continuing “Anthony Wallersteiner … said that access and participation plans had ‘successfully driven down the number of Oxbridge places awarded to privately educated pupils’”. The it gets truly desperate.
“Dr Wallersteiner, who is of Jewish descent, also likened criticism of private schools and the elite to anti-Semitic abuse, saying ‘the rise of populists and polemicists has created a micro-industry in bashing private schools. Some of the criticisms echo the conspiratorial language of The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion. It was relatively easy for Hitler and his henchmen to suggest that the Jewish minority was over-represented in key professions: medicine, law, teaching and the creative industries”. Yes, he actually said that.
And the Murdoch goons actually published it. But the numbers do not bear out his scaremongering. As the article concedes, “Of British school leavers awarded a place at Cambridge in 2017, 64.1% were from state schools, up from 61.4% in 2013. For Oxford, the figures rose from 56.8% to 58.2% during the same period”.
When you crunch those numbers, it means perhaps one more student per college is now entering from a state school. Moreover, the article also concedes “Heads of other leading independent schools admitted that fee-paying pupils ‘on the margins’ were now less likely to receive an offer than in previous years”. Admission policy based on merit - good!
As Phil Baty pointed out, “Private schools educate around 6.5% of all school children in the UK. Private schools educate over 40% of the students that go to Oxford”. Private education still brings massive advantages. Richard Adams added “If you think Stowe is a ‘top school’ then have a look at its A-level results. That explains why it’s not getting kids into Oxbridge”. It’s being massively outperformed by state schools in the same area.
How the early success of Roxburgh has been diminished. Sad, really.
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