Normally, it is really rather tiresome when a politician is pilloried in the media for choosing to send their children to a private school above the local state schools. There’s even an argument that if you can afford to send your kid to a fee-paying school, then at least it is one less pressure in the great London school places crush.
But one thing worth mulling over about Nick Clegg’s admission on LBC yesterday that he might send his eldest son to an independent school if the school lottery doesn’t go his way is that the Deputy Prime Minister has tried very, very hard since coming into office not to criticise state schools and teachers. Those close to him have made clear that they are uncomfortable with the way Michael Gove provokes the teaching unions by calling teachers ‘whingers’, believing that these sorts of criticisms are the ‘last thing the government needs’ when it is trying to keep teachers on side with its major education reforms.
But even if you prefer to protect schools from Gove-style attacks, it’s an even bigger insult to teachers if you then suggest that they’re not good enough to educate your own children. By all means call them whingers and attack standards in schools publicly and then send your own children to private schools because you’re open about your dissatisfaction with the state sector. At least you’ve been honest from the start. But it’s another thing to avoid criticising the profession and even to push back on key reforms while privately worrying the sector isn’t up to teaching your own precious brood. If Clegg thinks there are schools round his way that aren’t much cop, then he’s welcome to say so: the government clearly thinks so, too, given its programme of education reform.