I was introduced to this idea via a comment on Katharine Birbalsingh’s blog. It comes from the fact that in private schools, there are much less problems in terms of behaviour, motivation and engagement in lessons. If everyone had to pay for their schooling, then it would completely change the way everyone viewed it: you’re wasting your money if you’re not behaving well and putting effort in.
I have to say, that as a music teacher I have been in schools where private instrumental lessons are free, and the teachers had actually requested that the head bring the fees back in. There were just too many of them being missed and too much bad behaviour in them.
I’m not convinced that the lack of those problems in fee paying education is just caused by the money factor though. I think it is more to do with the way people from less affluent backgrounds view education. I also think that parents are more likely to put pressure on students to achieve when they are paying fees, which provides the reinforcing at home that a lot of students miss out on.
Realistically, in order to enable everyone in the country pay for their child’s education, there would have to be some loan type scheme in operation, as with university tuition fees. I don’t think this will magically make parents more supportive of their child’s education, any more than it keeps students out of pound a pint nights and in the library every night.
In terms of working conditions for teachers as well, I think this will give students and their families more power over teachers, and they already have too much. Already increased fees are meaning students are approaching universities as ‘consumers’ who can sometimes be unhappy with the product. What would happen if all of education was a product?