27 January 2008

Curious timing

There has been much in the media lately of private schools being forced to justify their charitable status to the Charities Commission which has been gleefully implementing the new Charities Act 2005 - or as some of us would have it - doing the government's dirty work.

Quite why it is thought to be a good idea to make it more expensive to send children to private schools - and therefore out of the reach of more people - escapes me, rather in the same way as it escapes the Charities Commission that saving the public purse the cost of educating a significant number of children and improving the economy by providing thousands of well educated young people is actually a public good.

It is no co-incidence that my alma mater, the Dragon School, is in the Observer today which reports that it is giving lessons in generosity in a bid to be more charitiable in the eyes of the Charities Commission.

However, I wonder if it is more of a co-incidence that my other mater, Eton College, has been in the public eye following the broadcast of only the third ever documentary in its history filmed with its co-operation. A Boy Called Alex was shown last week on Channel 4 launching the new series of Cutting Edge (the documentary filmed at Eton about 15 years ago, when I was there, was also under the auspicies of Cutting Edge) and it traced the story of the remarkable Alex Stobbs pursuing his goal of conducting Bach's Magnificat whilst battling cystic fibrosis.

The film showed Eton at its very best. Not only is Alex a music scholar on a full fees bursary but the school was providing him with every possible assistance so that he could continue to attend whilst being treated for his debilitating condition. The film showed hardly anyone from Eton other than head of music, Ralph Allwood (a dedicated teacher if there ever was one) and Alex's nurse and a few interviews with Alex's contemporaries who were performing. As a result, it portrayed a school comprised exclusively of motivated and talented students. Hmmmm.

But as much as the film boosted Eton and showed what it is doing for a musical prodigy, it also raised awareness of cystic fibrosis. So, I wonder what parents of cystic fibrosis sufferers now think of Eton and whether they would want to strip it of its charitable status - especially that famous one, Gordon Brown?

blog comments powered by Disqus