A few years ago I would have been completely against private schooling. I would have gone as far as to say it was against my morals.
When I visited a small private school in Bedford during my teacher training, it was reluctantly. I had to visit a school to observe teaching in the key stage below what I was training in. Being me, I didn't organise my visit in plently of time. I've always been a last-minute type of person but thought 'oh there's loads of middle schools in Bedford, it'll be fine.'
Literally the Friday afternoon before the Monday we were supposed to complete our visit I wrote down a list of phone numbers for middle schools in the town. I started with my favourites and made my way down the list. 'We already have a couple of students in. Sorry.' 'We have OFSTED in. Sorry.' 'We have blah, blah, blah going on. Sorry.' Uh, oh.
So. There was no other option. I had to get the numbers for the private schools. I looked carefully at the list and again started with the school I thought I might like best. 'Yes, no problem at all. See you Monday.'
My God, I was nervous! I, like many I'm sure, had preconceived ideas about private schools. But I am glad to say that at this school I was proved wrong. Yes, many of the pupils come from wealthy families but so what? I realised on that visit that kids are kids no matter what. And I also found that many of the pupils weren't from particularly wealthy families; their parents just work extremely hard and budget and prioritise their money to be able to pay the fees.
When the time came to apply for a job, as my training was coming to an end, two very different schools were advertising. One being the local sate school to me and the other being the private school I had visited. I had completed part of my training at the local state school and must say I loved it. It felt like a 'proper' school. I applied for both. To my surprise I was called for interview at both schools just two days apart. The private school was up first.
I went to the interview and honestly thought to myself I had no chance of actually getting the job. Although I had visited I had not met the senior staff that would be interviewing me and I just thought 'they won't like me.' I went home feeling fairly confident but had such mixed feelings. I knew that if they rang me that evening to offer me the position I would have to give my decision there and then. It's what's expected. I deliberated all evening; wanting the phone to ring but also wishing it not to.
When I accepted the job I was thrilled. What a confidence boost! But, had I gone against my 'morals'? Did I go into teaching to teach 'privileged, rich kids'. I was brought up living in council houses and had a state school education. I believed all kids should have the same chances, no matter what. Couldn't I make more of a difference at the local state school?
I struggled with this debate and still do a bit. For the most part though, I'm glad I went against my 'morals'. I learned of a culture of reverse snobbery, to which I had bought into. Certainly the kids at this particular private school showed me that kids are kids. There are testing, challenging and cheeky ones and keen, willing and enthusiastic ones in all schools.
Don't get me wrong. I still believe all children should have equal opportunities and money should not play a factor but I'm certainly not totally anti private schooling anymore ... I think the school should be considered carefully for the child. If the local state is the only option - so be it. State schools are full of brilliant teachers and equally as brilliant children :)