So says Jill Archer in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers. It comes in response to the extra tuition her grandchildren, twins Freddie and Lily Pargetter are receiving in an attempt to ensure they pass the entrance exam to the Cathedral School in Felpersham. They currently attend the local state primary school in Loxley Barrett.
Nigel Pargetter, the twins’ father, being almost aristocratic and owning a country estate, always intended for his children to go to his old boarding school Clavisborne. Not quite as posh, more middle class, their mother, Elizabeth Pargetter (née Archer), was, at first, keen to allow them to follow in the Pargetter tradition. In the summer she began expressing her doubts about boarding school, and so the Pargetters began exploring the possibility of the Cathedral School. The twins’ cousin, Daniel Hebden Lloyd already attends this school. His father, Alistair Lloyd wasn’t too happy about this, but conceded, partly because Daniel’s grandparents (the parents of his late biological father) stumped up the fees.
The Pargetters are self-excluding (Whitty, 2001) themselves from state education, following an age-old tradition of the upper classes. They still intend to self-exclude even though they have taken the decision to have the children attend a school close by. Borchester Green has never been on their radar.
What is wrong with Borchester Green?
The short answer is, nothing.
Interestingly, Borchester Green is likely to be seen as a ‘safe choice’ for many middle-class parents who cannot afford the fees for private education. Granted, Borcetshire, Borchester Green, Ambridge, and The Archers are fictional, but it is reasonable to assume that this rural community has a large middle class population who have colonised the state education provision (ibid). If they were to attend Borchester Green Freddie and Lily are at an advantage, they come from a wealthy, upper middle class family. Social class remains the greatest predictor of education success.
Surely though, they would do better at private school?
Not necessarily, private schools are not homogenous, they don’t all offer the same standard of education (whatever that might be). In any case, why assume the quality of teaching is any better at a private school? Importantly, private schools don’t equate to the long-established public schools such as Eton and Harrow for the boys, and Roedean for girls. Here, social networks are likely to be as significant as academic credentials for a successful future life. I’m not sure that the Cathedral School in Felpersham is quite in the same league. Additionally, despite their obvious poshness, I’m not sure that the Pargetters are in the same elite social networks as those families who have sent their offspring to Eton and Harrow for generations.
The Pargetters could do no worse than save their money. Jill Archer is right, the Pargetters have little to fear from Borchester Green. It is almost as if she had read the recent report from the Sutton Trust which found that students from comprehensive schools outperformed at degree level, those students who went to either Independent or Grammar School.
However, someone should inform the Pargetters that they may have missed the deadline date for applying for a place at secondary school.
 Whitty, Geoff(2001) ‘Education, social class and social exclusion’, Journal of Education Policy, 16: 4, 287