Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

In School Sports, It's Class Divide One, Equality Nil

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

In School Sports, It's Class Divide One, Equality Nil

Article excerpt

State schools are facing financial ruin - and the effects are being felt particularly hard in the sporting area

When comprehensive schools occasionally travel to play against a celebrated private school there is usually some extra baggage on board.

This is perhaps best illustrated by the tale I heard recently of a PE teacher somewhere in the South West who took his team to play cricket at one such venue. As he parked the battered school minibus in front of the grand entrance, the beaming master of cricket (or some variant on that job title) strode across the gravel to greet him.

"Hello, I'm Sandy Fortescue, son of Laurie." ("Laurie Fortescue" being my alternative name here for a famous England test-player from yesteryear.) To which the PE teacher apparently responded "Hello, and I'm Phil Young, son of the painter Colin."

"Oh yes? Do I know any of his work?"

"Well, he painted the railings on Torquay promenade if you've ever been down that way?"

This class divide was then played out on the field, too, with the state school bowled out for just 14 - they lost by about 150 runs. It was the kind of public-school thrashing many of us recall only too well. Either we have driven a minibus of lambs to such slaughter ourselves or we used to suffer similar morale-sapping experiences when we were students.

We remember those humiliating three-figure rugby scores, those tennis matches where the entire rubber was decided within about 10 minutes. Sport is frequently described as a "great leveller", but when it comes to private versus state it is often the greatest of un-levellers.

Even the public school's football team can prove irksomely difficult to beat, despite football often being disregarded there and despite their free-scoring centre-forward really being a rugby prop-forward by trade. Sporting supremacy is plainly something that a private education can still offer (certainly at the large schools), thanks of course to the facilities, coaching and practice from infancy onwards. …

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