Private schools — the Danish model

Sorø Akademi
Sorø Akademi by Alexander Hundegger, on Flickr.
According to Twitter, people are starting to look again at the rather low taxes that private schools have to pay.

However, from a Danish perspective it’s rather interesting that the only support private schools get from the state is a bit of tax relief. Although Denmark can seem rather socialist compared to the UK, private schools have for many years enjoyed huge support from the state to ensure that their fees are affordable for most people.

In the UK, private schools have to charge ridiculously high fees simply to have the same budget as their public-sector counterparts. The result is that private schools to a large extent reflect and reenforce the class system, rather than being about providing different educational experiences.

In England, Michael Gove’s free schools get the same funding as state schools, but they cannot charge any additional fees. Interestingly, the result has been that they exist completely separately from the old-fashioned private schools — I had naïvely expected the two groups of schools to merge gradually, but that doesn’t seem to be happening at all.

I’m quite fond of the Danish system because it effectively makes private schools public-sector schools with slightly different educational focuses, rather than being clubs for rich people’s kids.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Scotland introduced a variant of the Danish system? Basically, private schools should get the same funding as state schools (just like the English free schools), but they should be allowed to charge small fees on top of this (e.g., up to £100/month). At the same time, tax relief and charity status could be removed from existing private schools to force them into the new system. In this way, private schools would quickly lose their poshness, so it would lead to a much more egalitarian outcome than the status quo.

PS: This blog post is based on growing up in Denmark (but attending a state school) — it’s quite possible that things have changed to some extent since I left the country.

8 thoughts on “Private schools — the Danish model

  • 26/11/2014 at 07:57
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    I would personnally prefer the Finish model wehere private education is abolished altogether.

    Reply
    • 26/11/2014 at 08:53
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      That’s a possibility, too, but personally I’m too liberal to like bans unless there are no other options.

      Reply
      • 26/11/2014 at 09:13
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        I understand where you are coming from and in general I tend to follow those sentiments as well. However on education, I see it as a fantastic opportunity of levelling the playing field and putting a spanner in the spokes of the class system that we still live with.

        Even under your suggested model, people who are choosing between heat or eat, couldn’t afford to send their children to a private school. Education is a right and every child should have the same opportunity. Charging for education is simply imposing an aspirational tax on those at the bottom end of society. I believe this holds true, whether we are talking about Higher, Secondary or Primary education.

        Reply

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