I don’t think "squeezed middle" means what the lovely Mrs Odone thinks it means:
For the past decade, our parental angst, which had my husband tossing and turning at night and me frantic about freelance work (I remember dashing out of hospital within three days of an emergency caesarian to write an article), could be summed up in two little words: school fees. For most of us "squeezed" middle-class parents, our little treasure’s education will set us back £30,000 a year (the average* private school bill). For many of us this means not only giving up on luxuries such as exotic holidays and theatre outings, but also remortgaging our home, going begging to the in-laws, and moonlighting and other small humiliations.
What keeps us going, as we tighten our belt and avert our eyes whenever a Travel Special supplement comes with the Telegraph, is the thought that our penny-pinching and hard-slogging are buying our children the best education in the world. (For, and this is shaming, while Britain’s state schools languish at the bottom of international league tables, its private schools continue to monopolise the top.) Great playing fields, cutting-edge labs and incredibly inspiring teachers: this is what we like to think we’re paying eye-watering sums for.
Think again: as this paper has revealed, we are actually keeping private schools’ Heads in Ferraris, furs and the French Riviera. Some Heads earn as much as £180,000 – and many are earning DOUBLE what they earned only three years ago.
Poor things. It is true that many parents of privately-educated children make tremendous sacrifices to pay school fees. True too that those fees have been increasing rapidly in recent years (an unfortunate by-product of the competition to attract pupils). But, look, private education in Britain is an elite business: just 7% of pupils attend private schools. And within that world there are elites within the elite. Odone’s children, for instance, attend a modest inner-London school called Westminster.
If you send your kids to Westminster and you complain about a lack of disposable cash, you’re not part of the "squeezed middle" you’re a whining fool. This is true even if you’re also the type of mother generally considered "fragrant". The real "squeezed middle" are the people earning about or not much more than
Christina Cristina Odone spends on school fees. Then again, the wealthy tend to believe average earnings are much higher than they really are. Feeling "squeezed" is not actually the same thing as being "squeezed".
Combine this woeful lack of awareness with the complaint that some headmasters are earning as much as £180,000 a year and you have a perfect example of the great middle-class fears that someone, somewhere is having it easier than you and someone, somewhere else is doing better than you. It’s not fair!
Doubtless some headmasters are overpaid. But for those running the very best schools – a Westminster or a St Pauls or whatever – £180,000 a year does not seem vastly excessive. To put it another way: there are a decent number of mere newspaper columnists who earn more than the headmasters of some of Britain’s best (and perhaps world-leading) schools. That’s fine and good luck to them but, really, some sense of proportion would be welcome.
Education is a commodity and may often be worth considerable investment but voluntarily spending £30,000 a year on education no more makes you part of the "squeezed middle" than would spending that money on claret and champagne and then complaining that you have no money left with which to enjoy life as you’d like to enjoy it.
Moreoever, complaining that it does cheapens the struggles of people who really are struggling.
*I don’t believe this is true. Most day schools cost much less than 30K.Tags: Britain, Education, Hackery