On the 31st of July, the Department of Education (DofE) announced a new scheme to introduce Latin as a subject in state schools; the Latin Excellence Program (LEP). Not only will students be taught to understand the language, but will have the opportunity to visit Roman heritage sites. According to the Minister of Education Gavin Williamson, teaching Latin will broaden the offered curriculum, and help “put an end to the divide” between private and state schools. We highly doubt it.

Currently just 2.9% of state schools have Latin as an optional GCSE. On the other hand, nearly 50% of private schools teach Latin as a subject. Students from lower income families are therefore significantly disadvantaged when enrolling for A-Levels such as Classics compared to their privately educated counterparts.

£4m is to be spent on the funding of the LEP, while this may seem like a large sum it translates to just 40 state schools being awarded funding. The scheme will, in reality, have a minor impact on our education system as a whole. 

Many privately educated Tories, such as Jacob Rees Mogg, (who himself was humiliated on LBC when quizzed on his own Latin knowledge) have been quick to present LEP as a huge success – according to them it’s exactly what this country needs right now. This demonstrates just how out of touch some of these politicians really are. 

After years of Tory Austerity and economic crisis, the effects of which fall mostly on the working class, it is laughable to suggest that teaching Latin more widely will have an impact on educational outcomes.  When children across the country are starving, what will change with the introduction of Latin? 

Even if Latin were to be introduced into every classroom, without the state of the art equipment, small class sizes and expert teaching which private schools can buy, the gulf between state and private education will not diminish. 

In the case of the MEP each school which applied for the program was awarded around £20,000 which is not a great deal when you consider the wage of a dedicated teacher and heritage trips. It is therefore likely that the state schools that benefited most from MEP are those from wealthier areas with other funding sources (for example wealthy parents) with state schools in poorer areas once again left out entirely, we can expect a similar story from LEP.

According to the Minister of Education Gavin Williamson, the program would render Latin, as a subject, less “elitist” and no longer “reserved for the privileged few.” Williamson also claimed that LEP will broaden the offered curriculum, and help “put an end to the divide” between private and state schools.

Williamson’s message however, is an impossible ideal, the divide between private and state schools in reality reflects a deep class divide in society. Small learning programs like MEP or LEP are not enough to bridge this gap.  Through the LEP, only 40 state schools will gain access to Latin teaching. Latin, and the subjects made easier by its knowledge, will remain just as much a stronghold of the elite as before.  

The gulf between private and state schools can never be bridged under capitalism. In fact, if this were to happen, the purpose of private schools would be rendered pointless. Private schools have autonomy over the lessons they teach; state schools do not. While both teach core and required subjects, private schools tend to have multiple courses and various extracurricular activities which most state-educated students will never have the opportunity of attending. 

What lessons are taught is far from the only concern which contributes to the divide: Private schools have fewer students allowing for a more personalized approach, they can offer their students private tutors, and have not had to face the damaging budget cuts and austerity which have wrecked most state schools in the past period.

As long as private schools are unregulated, void of government intervention and subject to superior funding then state schools will continue to fall behind – simply put provided the two coexist then inequality between them will remain and even grow.

Even Williamson suggested: “There should be no difference in what pupils learn at state schools and independent schools.” – Yet private schools entrench and strengthen class divide and class society itself.

Greater funding for state schools is beneficial (including the introduction of new schemes and programs), but it remains worthless when it comes to tackling the private/state school divide. Only the abolishment of private schools and by extension class divides via socialist revolution and democratic planning can end education inequality once and for all.

by Leeds Marxists


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