The education secretary has defended the UK’s private school system, saying we should be “very proud” of it and said top universities should not be “tilting the system” in favor of state school pupils.
Nadhim Zahawi has argued against suggestions that Oxbridge should accept more state-educated children, suggesting this should not come at the expense of people who are “performing” in some of the best schools in the UK.
It comes after Cambridge University Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope told private schools they should expect fewer students to enter Oxford or Cambridge in future.
Zahawi said The temperature that the government should focus on improving the quality of public education rather than reducing the number of students from private schools entering elite universities.
The education secretary told the newspaper: ‘I think it should be merit-based and evidence-based.
“You don’t create a system that people think is fair and just by somehow thinking there’s an easy way out. The best thing you can do is create schools in the public system that are as good as independent schools. What we are.
“I must continue my journey to provide more exceptional and better performing schools. It’s the right strategy. Not to say actually, let me just accept that we’re not going to produce outstanding schools, so let me just keep the system away from successful kids,” he added.
Cambridge University professor David Abulafia also denounced the supposed tilt towards state schools, suggesting The temperature that privately educated white boys are the new disadvantage in college admissions.
However, the comments caused backlash on Twitter and beyond.
Labor MP for Nottingham South Lilian Greenwood hit out at Zawahi’s comments. She tweeted: ‘A privately educated minister, who sent his children to private schools, opposes any action to ensure that bright young people educated by the state have a fair chance of entering the best universities. Who would have thought?
Zahawi attended the elite King’s College School in Wimbledon and also sent his children there, saying it was the “right decision” for his family.
Meanwhile, BBC Newsnight Policy editor Lewis Goodall pointed to the disparity in funding between comprehensive schools and top schools like Eton, Harrow and Westminster School.
Last September, the admission rate to private schools at the University of Cambridge reached 28%, compared to 7% of private school children in the UK.
Although this figure is an improvement from 29.4% admission to private schools in 2020 and 31.3% in 2019, the figure is below the unofficial benchmark set by the Statistics Agency of higher education, which was 24% for Cambridge and 24.5%. for Oxford in 2020.