Some criticisms of private schools ‘echo’ anti-Semitism, says Stowe headteacher
Anthony Wallersteiner told The Times ‘the rise of populists and polemicists has created a micro-industry in bashing private schools’.
Some of the criticisms of private schools and the elite “echo the conspiratorial language” of anti-Semitism, a leading headteacher has said.
Anthony Wallersteiner, of £12,000-a-term Stowe School, also claimed a decline in the number of non-state school Oxbridge admissions had left some parents making claims about “social engineering”.
He told The Times that “the rise of populists and polemicists has created a micro-industry in bashing private schools”.
Dr Wallersteiner, who is of Jewish descent, went on: “Some of the criticisms echo the conspiratorial language of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
“It was relatively easy for Hitler and his henchmen to suggest that the Jewish minority was over-represented in key professions: medicine, law, teaching and the creative industries.
“Privately-educated pupils in the UK are also being accused of dominating the top jobs and stifling social mobility … It is all too facile to stereotype groups and ignore the fact that lawyers, doctors, writers and politicians are individuals.”
MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who was at the forefront of highlighting allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour party, branded his comments as “insulting and outrageous”.
She told the Press Association: “It’s insulting to all the young people who have secured places at Oxford and Cambridge on the basis of hard work and potential.
“And it’s insulting to the victims of anti-Semitism to compare the two.”
A spokesman for the Campaign Against Antisemitism added that “tasteless Holocaust analogies do not belong in the debate about education in this country”.
Boarding fees at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire cost more than £12,697 a term, with its website describing the school as “unique” and in “the most sublime setting”.
Dr Wallersteiner told The Times that many parents have been making claims about positive discrimination and their children being edged out of Oxbridge.
He said there has been a “much more concerted effort” by admissions tutors at Oxford and Cambridge to reduce the number of places awarded to independent schools and “redress the balance and put in contextual details”.
Analysis by social mobility charity The Sutton Trust published in December showed eight private schools sent 1,310 pupils to Oxbridge over three years, while over the same period, 2,894 other schools sent just 1,220 students between them.
According to The Times, of the school leavers awarded a place at Cambridge in 2017, 64.1% were from state schools compared to 61.4% in 2013.
During the same period for Oxford, the figure rose from 56.8% to 58.2%.
Roger Mosey, the master of Selwyn College, Cambridge, told the Press Association that they are not unfair to independent schools and simply “want to be fair to all schools”.
“It is absolutely the case, we want more students from state schools, but they have got to meet the entry qualifications,” he said.
“The key thing is looking for bright students who would not have thought about applying for Oxford or Cambridge.
“We are quite unapologetic that we want to get more students who would thrive and benefit from being here.”
In terms of Selwyn College, he said around 75% of their applications are from state schools and 25% of independent schools, with this figure also true of the acceptance rates.
Mr Mosey said that in forming an acceptance decision, they will look at all available data, including exam results, school performance and their background.
“I think social engineering would be dropping the grades of students from state schools, that we don’t do. Everybody has to make the grade,” he added.
Asked about Dr Wallersteiner’s comments on criticisms of private schools and the elite echoing the conspiratorial language of anti-Semitism, Mr Mosey said he “does not understand that parallel”.
Responding to the comments, Labour MP David Lammy told the Press Association: “This is a slap in the face to hard-working state school teachers.”
He added that claiming the “most privileged students are being edged out is ludicrous and contradicts all the evidence we have”.
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