With the BBC seeming to do all they can to promote the Labour party and its causes, John Prescott is hosting a programme (at 9pm) on BBC 2 tonight called 'The Class System And Me'. And in order to drum up some awareness for it, he was interviewed on Radio 4's Today Show this morning.
Much of the interview dwells on an apparent lack of opportunities for poorer people to go to private and fee-paying schools. Prescott specifically mentions his trip to Rugby (from 5.45 in the audio sample):
"I went to Rugby though, and I talked to the few comprehensive school kids who went to the private school - they have to do that to get the charity money, so they have a sprinkling of working class kids going there..."
It is well known that the Charity Commission has put pressure on private schools to do more to justify their positions as charitable organisations. Here is a news article specifically referring to Rugby itself with regard to this issue. First of all then, there's no 'charity money' up for grabs. Charitable status perhaps, but no charity money. Prescott's tone - particularly the use of the word 'sprinkling' - also suggests that he sees their intake of poorer children as some sort of token gesture. This is a claim the headmaster of Rugby, Patrick Derham, has denied (from the BBC article):
"We are delighted by what the foundation has achieved so far but there are many more excellent candidates that we can currently fund. By raising more funds, we will be able to share the benefits of a Rugby education as widely as possible and to safeguard these benefits for future generations."
And that quote is preceded with the line: "Rugby denies it is simply trying to meet the public benefit test as set out by the Charity Commission." There is also significant evidence of Rugby's intentions on their website:
"All scholarships to Rugby carry a basic fee reduction of 10% but they may be worth up to 100% of fees, if family need can be shown through a means test. There is no limit to the number of scholarships we offer. We make awards to all those who show the requisite skills and potential."
So Rugby offers unlimited scholarships, worth anything from a 10% to a 100% reduction in fees, providing the potential pupils are academically strong or show prodigious talent in another field. Hardly a 'sprinkling', Mr. Prescott.
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