23 January 2019
Reply to opinion piece in The National
A modern and vibrant Scotland needs all the debate it can cope with. It needs all the views it can accommodate. It also needs to separate fact from .
Had Kevin McKenna written his piece (“Elite schools for the privileged do so much to maintain ills in our society”, 23 January), about any other group of parents and young people in Scotland, the reaction would be immediate, brutal and uncompromising. How he can “suppose” that in ANY Scottish school “your parents’ money is rated as important as your academic grades” and has a value system characterised by “money gets you everywhere” is quite beyond me, but demonstrates he has no real interest in the experience of 30,000 pupils and families in Scotland today.
For example, his supposition that independent schools in Scotland have any distant correlation with Brexit is as glib and offensive as it is laughable, as the published views of this organisation and individual heads and schools make very clear. He should perhaps follow Brian Redhead, late of Radio 4’s advice, and observe a personal one-minute silence for daring to suggest that he knows how they all vote.
He seeks to justify his valid personal disapproval with the conflation that every one of the 6000 independent school pupils walking the streets of Glasgow are somehow aligned with the grim failure of political leadership on all sides away in Westminster, or the excesses of British colonialism, while disparaging the efforts those pupils and their teachers make to seek do prove their worth in public, private and third sectors.
He dismisses a public benefit test, unique to Scotland and designed by Holyrood – irrespective that means-tested fee assistance has more than tripled as a result, outstrips the UK by a considerable distance and, per capita, gives (publicly-funded) higher education a run for our money. He ignores the £250 million in taxes and 11,000 jobs the sector maintain to cast aspersions of “corruption”. All of this is done with merely a passing reference to the Scottish Government’s plan to increase business rate fivefold for 50 out of the 24,500 bodies on the Scottish charity register.
At no point does he pause to offer an explanation of how a modern Scotland should start paying for a further 28,500 pupils it currently does not have to; or why that modern Scotland should cast out 1,500 international boarders from over 50 countries; by closing historic and successful institutions. The same schools - broad in academic and extra-curricular provision and sought-after for learning support –must go for the sake of ideological purity. It is this thinking that sees pupils in care from England taking up fully funded places in Scottish boarding schools, while no-one dares volunteer the same in Scotland itself.
Your correspondent’s slights at the expense of the Society of Jesus are below him and your publication. The rest of his broadside shows that however much most of modern Scotland is prepared to listen and to collaborate, there are some for whom their personal view of perfect must be the enemy of the good.