Should politicians lead by example?

This blog starts with not one but two ethical issues. Firstly, should we discuss politician’s children and specifically their education and secondly, should politicians send their children to state funded schools? These questions arise after media speculation that the Prime Minister is to send his son to a private school, thus saving the State several thousands of pounds a year on his education.

I would normally regard this as a private matter and fully support the right of parents to educate their children as they see fit. However, the Prime Minister has form in this regard since the discussions as to where his daughter would go to secondary school were all over the media in 2014. Indeed, according to the Daily Mail on line, in October 2014 he was in favour of the state sector. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2796964/cameron-set-tory-pm-send-children-state-secondary-viewing-three-four-schools-wife-samantha.html Part of the headline read: No one should need to go to a private school, says Eton-educated PM.

The article went on to say

In an interview with Good Housekeeping magazine, the Prime Minister suggested the Government’s education reforms were designed to make private education redundant.

‘If you pay your taxes you shouldn’t have to pay all over again. There is no reason why our state schools can’t be among the best in the world, and some of them are,’ he said.

‘What is exciting is there this change not only in practice but also in culture which is all about excellence and wanting to be the best and wanting to get the best out of every child, and you are now seeing that in more and more schools.
Well that seemed pretty clear. So perhaps he can tell us why he has changed his mind? It cannot be as a result of the social mobility index the government published yesterday, as that rates London very highly for social mobility compared with say many seaside resorts. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/496103/Social_Mobility_Index.pdf

If the Prime Minister does opt out of state education for his son, what does this say about the government’s own academy programme?

Is it a slap in the face for hardworking teachers and other staff in our state schools that the person leading our public services doesn’t want to use them for his own family? Of course, London state schools might lose out under the funding review coming up shortly and their performance, which has improved dramatically over the last few years, might deteriorate over the next few years, especially if they have difficulty recruiting staff due to the pay cap in the public sector. We these the factors that help change Mr Cameron’s mind from eighteen months ago? We don’t know and, as I said, at the beginning, all parents have the right to decide how to educate their children. The State is the default position if you don’t, won’t or cannot take a decision yourself. But one cannot help but feel that leading by example is good for the morale of those that work in the public sector.

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4 thoughts on “Should politicians lead by example?

  1. I agree that all parents have an absolute right to choose to send their children to a fee paying school. However, I am very concerned that I subsidise many public schools via their charitable status. Why should I subsidise Eton, for example, a school I could never have afforded for my children! I am afraid being allowed to swim in their pool when no one else needs it does not satisfy my concept of being a charitable institution.

  2. When those who are in charge of policies which affect everyone, then they have a moral duty to accept the consequences of these policies. When politicians opt out of the policies they have created and vociferously promoted, they are saying two things:

    1 We don’t believe our own rhetoric.
    2 The majority will swallow our medicine, but we can refuse it.

    It’s summed up in one word: hypocrisy.

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