Saturday, July 21, 2007

Taking the P***

Reading again Roy Hattersley’s article on Charterhouse public school in Tuesday’s ‘Guardian’, reminded me how both left and right in Old Labour used to be united in attacking the entrenched privilege that public schools represented. They were an easy target, a quick sound bite to prove a politician’s socialist credentials.

Such is New Labour’s craven worship of wealth that an old moderate like Hattersley appears now to be a dangerous class warrior.

Last week saw the publication of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report into poverty and wealth. They identified three groups in society, the breadline poor - 27% (subdivided into the core poor), the non-poor, non-wealthy - 50% and the asset wealthy - 23% (subdivided into the exclusive wealthy).

The key findings were-

· The breadline poor (those excluded from participating in the norms of society) had risen from 17% in 1980, to 22% in 1990 and 27% in 2000.
· The numbers of core poor (materially deprived) had slightly fallen from 14% in 1990 to 11% in 2000.
· The personal wealth of the richest 1% of the population grew as a proportion of the national share from 17% in 1991 to 24% in 2002.

One of the authors of the report Professor Danny Dorling noted that there was a ‘rise in the geographical separation of the poor from the rich – where the two groups live physically apart.’

The people in the most segregated social group were those wealthy people who could exclude themselves from schools, hospitals and recreation facilities.

This was accentuated in some affluent areas like Mole Valley in Surrey and Chesham and Amershan in Buckinghamshire where in 1980 67% were neither rich nor poor, twenty years later only a quarter were in that category. A quarter were rich in 1980 but this had soared to 61% in 2000.

During the 1990s large parts of cities had over half the population living in poverty. As Dorling concluded, ‘In these places, it is, in effect, now normal to be poor.’

Our schools also reflect society from the exclusive public schools to the sink schools on the sink estates.

Abolish the public schools? It isn’t going to happen any time soon. Let’s be honest though, claiming £100 million in tax relief, by posing as ‘charities’ really is ‘taking the p***.’

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