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24 September 2008

Education a 'them and us' system

Evidence to show how Britain's wealth gap affects education abounds. An OECD report placed Britain fourth in terms of large class sizes, and worst in terms of the gap between private and state school class sizes. In 1997 Labour promised to cut class sizes. And some class sizes have been cut - for the rich! On average there are 13 more pupils in a state primary class than in a private one in Britain.

Sarah Sachs-Eldridge

In 2007, the average annual cost of sending a child to a private day school was 9,627. The super-rich and their friends in New Labour may be able to afford this but for teachers, average private school fees represent 28% of the average salary and it is 36% for nurses.

When university top-up fees were introduced Socialist Students warned that this would have a big impact on limiting working-class students' access to higher education. We were told that a bursary scheme would prevent the 3,000 bill being an obstacle.

A recent report shows that students from poorer backgrounds receive, on average, 1,000 less in bursaries a year if they go to an ex-polytechnic rather than a redbrick university.

And league tables show most universities in the Russell Group, representing the top 20 research universities in Britain, have missed government targets to raise the number of state pupils they admit. At Oxford, the figure was only 53.7%.

From school through university, students from working-class backgrounds face an uphill battle. Applications to university have increased, showing the aspirations of young people to get a decent education, but tuition fees and mounting accommodation and other costs are great obstacles. 22% of students drop out, often for financial reasons.

It seems that when it comes to education, New Labour is living by a line from the Bible - "To those who have, more will be given, from them that have not, even that which they have will be taken away."

Socialist Students does not intend to offer the other cheek but to organise the student fightback for free education as a right for all. Join Socialist Students.

Organise a protest in your university as part of the Campaign to Defeat Fees day of action on Thursday 16 October. Contact Socialist Students at for leaflets, posters, support and advice.

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