I read an article in the I today explaining that public, fee paying, schools give their students the advantage of having an increased average wage after University; even if the comparative state school student went to the same Uni, achieved the same grade, and has the same job. In said situation the public school student will attain an average wage 6% higher than their state school counterpart. Overall? The difference in pay status between your randomly chosen graduates is a whopping 17% – that’s a massive £4500 a year more for private school leavers.
This statistic frustrated me massively because, if like me you went to a state school, it aims to dampen that fighting spirit you have that makes you determined to achieve your far-reaching career-dreams. I strongly believe that I would not be the person I am today, good or bad, had I gone to a ‘better’ school. There has to be many advantages to going to a ‘bad’ state school – I am determined not to give in and start making excuses based on my schooling background. I don’t want to lounge around and say “yes I have failed thus far to achieve my career goals but it’s because of my bad school, I didn’t have a chance anyway so why bother”. Anything I have not achieved thus far is not my school’s fault – it’s my fault!
So here’s my comprehensive list of reasons why I will always be happy with, and proud of, my educational past; and why my fellow state-school-ers should be too!
(I should say that I am not inferring said “bad” label onto every state school, many are extremely good institutions that can rival any public school in terms of educational standards. However, mine was not one of these such state schools as it consistently performed poorly in Ofsted school lists year after year, and was located in a very poor area of Sheffield with high crime rates.)
- Firstly, we should realise how incredibly lucky we are to have the opportunity to receive any free education. 57 million children in the world today have no access to education whatsoever; I, and others like me, should be grateful for what we have, and make the most out of it. It may be poor in comparison to Eton but in the grand scheme of things we are still bloody lucky. If all children realised this disparity between the western and third world countries they may be more inclined to appreciate their education, respect their teachers, and do their homework!
- You get life experience. I learnt recently, from a friend who had been chatting to a friend of theirs (a girl who I went to school with) about me, that I was bullied at school. My friend then came to me sympathetically exclaiming her empathy for such bullying. I was perplexed, though touched, at this comment as I don’t recall being bullied. I was certainly a geek, and picked on occasionally without doubt; but I wouldn’t have said bullied. In any case, this 5 years of hell on earth (I exaggerate slightly) actually gives you masses of experience that you just wouldn’t get in public schools. Bullies exist everywhere, but not the kind of bullies who carry a knife, a bottle of vodka, a packet of cigarettes, and a few out-of-date condoms in their school bag (by school bag I obviously mean a diddy little handbag that doesn’t fit any books in it). It’s a whole new world public-school-ers!
- You gain an understanding of poverty and what it does to children; how children end up as these kind of bullies, what kind of life they are subjected to, and what events pushed them to be like this. Often poverty, home life, and environment, are major factors. Public school bullies may have similar motives concerning home-life but they likely haven’t experienced poverty in any way whatsoever; they wouldn’t have had any exposure to what life is like for those that are stuck in that vicious circle of inherited generational unemployment and poverty, where in which you have to act in that ‘tough-guy’ fashion to stay alive. Literally in some cases.
- It makes you stubborn; you know that you can do better with your life then what was expected of you at school. Young people that attend such schools, in poor areas, are rarely given high expectations with regards to success. I know plenty of young people from my school year that are now in prison or have 3+ children courtesy of state benefits (which is truly awesome for them as it’s what they clearly wanted). Knowing this outcome was an expectation, or a reality, for so many others that had trodden before me only hardened my determination to achieve something substantial career-wise. I didn’t care what – it just had to be amazing!
- There ain’t no ‘old boys network’, unless your aim is to deal a better class of drugs or get in with a tight gang in Juvi (Not going to lie – I completely had to google ghetto words for really good). This is a good thing because you will know in years to come that you got your position entirely on your own. You did it by yourself; and wouldn’t that just increase your sense of achievement tenfold?!
- You won’t be arrogant. Produce of public schools oft have reams of confidence and self esteem in contrast to their state school counterparts. This may seem like a disadvantage on our behalf, but the line between confidence and arrogance is thin, and many public school leavers could be deemed to be erring on the side of arrogance. Never-mind the fact that they have this confidence because they have never had real hurdles to leap over; everybody knows that real success only comes after real failure.
- You will have some grit. Anyone that fights through a poor state school and makes their way onwards and upwards relatively unscathed must certainly have gained some hard-core grit. This grit will give you some oomph in later life; adding a whole score of interesting streaks to your character.
- You will appreciate pretty much anything. Seriously. I don’t think this needs much explanation. Simply put, you will just appreciate everything in life a whole lot more. For me this was due to having gone to school with hoards of young people whose families had lived on benefits for two or three generations; subsequently hardly any of these youngsters had a desire to achieve a career of any kind, or any inner belief that they could even if they did secretly want to. Thus, I now appreciate my hope, my belief, and any sort of opportunity that comes my way. What would life be without hopes and dreams?
- It gives you bragging rights. Getting a good grade at University really is something spectacular for a leaver from some state schools, given that hardly anyone actually has the chance to make that leap to go to into higher education. Public school leavers have to try a lot harder to sound impressive because they all have the same opportunities, the same grades, and the same qualifications. You’d have to make prime minister to get on the wall at Eton – even then you wouldn’t be the first or the last!
- You meet some damn good people that just haven’t had a break. My friends from school were pretty awesome, and 99% of the time we had a fantastic time. (Ok maybe 90%. Or 85. 80 minimum…) They are clever, kind, and brilliantly funny. They deserve to achieve their dreams, and though I don’t want to downgrade what they have accomplished I know it isn’t what they set out to do when we were kids. I also know without doubt that had they been given the opportunities of a public school child they would be flying right now.
Well there you are. There are undeniably many disadvantages to state school. However, school is ultimately a metaphor for life in general; it is what you make of it, and if you strive hard enough it can definitely help you to achieve your dreams. State school can enforce in you a sense of humiliation, toughness, awareness, determination and understanding. It can also be a lot of fun (just not clean fun). As a society, we need to put more faith and effort into these schools, and remember to instil in the children who pass through their doors the fundamental belief that they can achieve their dreams.
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