17 AUGUST 1944, Page 12


StR,—In the recent proposals for educational reform, and the comments on them that have so far appeared, there are two matters whose importance has been far too little emphasised or perhaps realised. The first of these concerns the " private schools " in the only valid sense of the term—i.e., the Preparatory Schools. At those who have ever worked in them know, these vary enormously in quality, ranging from the almost criminally bad to the very good indeed—a difference by no means always cor- responding to the fees charged, the chief characteristic of the more expensive schools often being not so much better " amenities " and a better and larger teaching staff, but a quite fantastic amount of " coddling " of boys on the medical side. At present anyone with sufficient capital can start a Prep. School, and I am enough of a libertarian not to wish this altered ; but some standards should be enforced, not least in the fundamental matter of teaching (the number of boys from flourishing Prep. Schools who have to start from scratch in almost every subject on reaching their Public School is far to large, even for war- time), and the best agency for enforcing. them would -be the body most closely affected—the Public Schools, which now have to do the work of the inefficient Prep. School as well as their own. (Of such other matters as the unwarrantably long hours that Welt School masters often have to work I will not now speak.) The other class of school that I have in mind, which seems likely to be adversely affected by the proposed changes, and in my own experience deserves it least, is the Grammar School. Of the large city Grammar School I have no direct knowledge ; but I have taught in a country one, as well as in a good Prep. School and a Public School, and I have no hesitation in saying that in some ways, and apart from " prestige value," the Grammar School was the best of the three. I will not take up more of your space by giving detailed reasons for this, but will say in conclusion that if the Grammar Schools are virtually abolished, or skimmed of their best potential pupils in favour either of the Public Schools or of the proposed Modern Schools, an institution with a long and a very fine history will have been killed. This may be necessary— if so, it is a sad necessity; but the case for it remains to be proved.—