From education to 'Our life is love'
The proposed closure (19 May) of Walden School, formerly Friends’ School Saffron Walden (FSSW), continues a trend over recent decades which have previously seen the closures of Quaker fee-paying schools in Wigton and Great Ayton.
As a product of FSSW and with possibly the longest school career there of any ‘Old Scholar’ (twelve years), and as a former parent user and governor of Ayton, I have often wondered whether the reasons that led Friends into the provision of private schools in previous centuries still apply in the post-1944 world of free public education and the competitive commercialisation of fee-paying schools. The undoubted role of Quaker education includes promoting values of respect and the development of every child whatever their capabilities and interests, and not only those that suggest academic achievement, as so crudely emphasised by politicians and the education market.
Would it not be in keeping with Quaker values to get out of private fee-paying education completely, where our witness is only to a very narrow section of affluent society, and concentrate on those children and communities where Friends’ values could make the most impact: the ‘inner cities’, the children rejected by the proposed grammar schools or whose personal needs cannot now be met by financially-stressed local authority schools? The funding of so-called ‘free schools’ makes this possible, and I’d commend new creative thinking along such lines to the Religious Society of Friends.
The witness remains essential, but the context has changed. Quaker education should change with it.
I was interested in ‘Equality and education’ (19 May). However, it barely touched on the problem that I and many Friends have with Quaker schools – I believe they are incompatible with our testimony to equality
I know that Quaker schools in Britain provide a very good education, but only for rich people. I know they provide bursary assistance, but many parents still cannot afford to pay the fees.
We have a testimony to equality but how good are we at putting it into practice? We live in a very unequal society. According to the Equality Trust: ‘Compared to other developed countries the UK has a very unequal distribution of income.’
In my view, any good that Quaker schools do is outweighed by the evil they do in perpetuating inequality in British society.
Ken R Smith
You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.