Article in the New Statesman 20 September

Peter Welby has written an article covering IGS: Durham in today’s New Statesman. This is what he said …

Is it possible to educate a child for £2,700 a year, which is about half what the average child in a state school costs and barely a quarter of what even the cheapest private schools charge? Those are the fees for a new private school, just opened in Durham by James Tooley, a Newcastle University professor of education. He argues that by renting low-cost buildings, cutting out “frills” such as swimming pools and playing fields, recruiting young (and therefore cheap) teachers and increasing class sizes, private education can be brought within the means of many more families.

He aspires to launch similar schools across the English north-east, having already established a low-cost private school chain in Africa. He has sunk his savings into the project and expects to attract private investors. Is he insane? What works in developing countries, where public services are weak, underfunded and often corrupt, can’t work in Britain, can it?

I am not so sure. In a separate venture, another low-cost private school, albeit charging twice as much as Tooley’s, is planned for London. As the British state decays, private firms are moving even into policing (see previous columns). Private enterprise has a usually reliable nose for where it can make money. Thanks to the Tories’ obsession with creating quasi-markets, the state school system seems, to many parents, to be increasingly fragmented and chaotic. In urban areas, getting places in the “right” schools is a complex, headache-inducing process that may involve moving house or renting a flat in the appropriate catchment area. Some families may conclude that it’s simpler – and possibly cheaper – to write a cheque