Published on March 4th, 2013 |
by Stuart Neaverson
Image © Cabinet Office
Did Nick Clegg have a choice in sending his son to a state school?
After much pubic rancour and interest, Nick Clegg announced today he was sending his eldest son to a state school. I couldn’t help but he reminded of a scene in The Thick of It, where an unpopular government minister is effectively blackmailed by her party to send her child to a rubbish state school in an attempt to improve her political reputation. Now the situation isn’t quite the same, with Nick Clegg sending his child to one of the very best state schools in the country but the similarities linger. Did Nick Clegg really want to send his child to state school and what is more, did he have a choice?
Education and the standard of state schools has become increasingly politicised in recent years. In sending his son to a state school, Nick Clegg has tried to show his faith in the system that he believes the state sector is good enough for his own child, despite the lure of private school. But that isn’t the only factor in play here. The Liberal Democrats are currently languishing at 10% in the latest opinion polls, even below UKIP. The only chance they have of regaining back the days when they got 23% in the 2010 general election is to win back those voters who defected to Labour. To send his child to private school would have pushed those voters even further away from seeing him as a man they could really relate to and vote for. Politically, his choices were very limited.
But then we come to a point of perhaps even greater importance. Is it any of our business? Surely, it’s a parents first priority to ensure the best future for the child and not just what is best for themselves. If they can afford a private school which they think offers a better chance in life, then surely they should go for it. Nick Clegg wouldn’t have been the first politician to send their children to private schools. MP’s like Diane Abbot and Tony Blair have also sent their children to private school and risked the public ire. Diane Abbot in particular received specific condemnation due to her previous opposition to the private schools sector. However, her son has just completed his International Baccalaureate and is now hoping to go to Cambridge University. Would he have got the same chance at a state school in Hackney?
Nick Clegg has managed the situation well though. His son may not be going to a private school, but he is going to one of the best state schools in the country. He got the best of both worlds. But I still can’t help thinking that, like in The Thick of It, Nick Clegg and his wife weren’t the only ones deciding their son’s future.