This is a very interesting thread and I have a few points to make.
I am a teacher, my husband is a teacher. As such we are committed to quality education whether we are working in the private or state sector. We have worked in both.
Equality is an interesting issue. Frankly, equality is simply not a possibility. There are too many factors involved, included socio/cultural considerations, economic considerations, inate ability etc. The drive for 'true equality' within the education system is merely leading us towards mediocrity. This comes back to the point that someone made earlier in the thread about the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Equality of outcome is only possible if we lower the standards of the higher achievers to meet those of the lowest common denominator. Low ability cannot be raised to the level of high ability. Equality of opportunity, should, within the state system, be the goal. However, this would not include pushing everyone towards the same outcome. Equality of opportunity should be about access to the resources that would best serve the individual. For some, this means access to vocational opportunities, which would better prepare them for life, than pushing them towards impossible academic goals. The state system is to an extent prepared for special needs students, low ability levels are well catered for as has been pointed out by a previous poster. However, the state system does not currently, by and large, cater for gifted pupils, so an inequality of provision has arisen due to the drive towards mediocrity. Therefore, where does a brighter student turn for equality of opportunity? The Private Sector is for a large number of children the only area within education that is prepared to cater for specific needs in terms of children with special talents. I would of course be happier if the State system made this provision, but it is the very argument of equality for all that has negated its ability to do so.
The next point that I would like to make is that there is a general inequality of opportunity within the State sector in terms of good, less good and bad schools. This in equality does not just exist between the State and Private sectors. Parents often do not have a choice about which State school they can send their child to. They may be allocated a school by their LEA at which they feel their child will not thrive, and at which in some cases they may not be safe. Another State school may exist in their area to which they would be happy to send their child, but if they are denied the right to send them there, is it then any wonder that if they are remotely able to afford it they will make sacrifices to afford a private school which meets their child's needs instead? While should their child suffer because of some political platform demanding 'equality'.
As a teacher, as I have stated, I am committed to the ideal of the best possible education for all, and I always teach to the top of my ability (which is considerable). However, as a teacher, I also have the right to choose the environment within which I teach, and although there are many state schools that I would be happy to work at, there are many that I would not. I also reserve the right as a professional to market my skills with the Private sector if I see fit, just as any other professional person can. I have my own agenda in terms of my happiness and my career.
In addition to being a teacher, I am a parent and though I strive towards high standards for all professionally, as a parent I am determined to secure high standards for my own child. My husband and I are moving sonn for him to take up a new position (in the State sector). The allocation of schools that I have been offered for my daughter by the LEA is unsatisfactory, none of them come close to meeting her needs. Therefore I will be paying for a private education for my daughter. My husband and I are not rich, but we are hard working and earn good money. We pay high taxes, which go to pay for many things in the public sector for those who are less well off. What we do with the rest is our choice. If we choose to use that money to provide our daughter with an appropriate education in a safe environment, then we are entitled to do so. We work very hard towards a good standard of education for other people's children, why should we do any less for our own child.
I think people here have ignored the fact that a private school social surrounding is more benevolent and the pastoral care is better. I got bullied badly at many of the state schools I attended, and had no friends. Kids teased me because I was 'clever' and also because I wasn't english.
I was much happier in my private school because I was around people who didn't consider above average intelligence a bad thing. I fitted in a lot better, and the money issue wasn't a problem because no one at my school was a snob in my experience.
As a teacher, I hear the argument about the 'real world' a lot. Frankly, it doesn't hold water. The real world is the one that you live in. What is real for you, may not be real for me. 'Real' is not defined in terms of state sector education any more than it is defined by private sector education. All experiences are as real and as valid as each other. However, we, as human beings, do have the right to choose what sort of experiences we have. As adults we choose who are friends are and who we mix with. The desire to be with like minded company is inherent within all of us.
I hear more claims about 'living in the real world' from people who are more deprived than I do from those who are privileged. But those who are less privileged do not have the monopoly on experience or what is real. It is not true to say that claiming income support is a more valid experience or more real than becoming a doctor, lawyer or teacher. It is certainly not true to say that sending your child to a school where they are more likely to come up against violence, bullying and drugs is a more valid experience than sending them to one that will nurture their abilities and provide them with exemplary pastoral care. As I have already stated, choosing a school for your child is not about making a political statement, it is about doing what is in the best interests of the child.
All people are real. All places are real. Private schools are therefore just as 'real' as state schools. Going to a private school as opposed to a state school does not negate reality.
The most 'real' thing that we can ever teach our children is that there are choices in life. The freedom to choose is an important part of our humanity. Societies in which there are no choices are generally totalitarian dictatorships within which no one can be fulfilled.
Your virulent dislike of one section of society is a form of bigotry. Bigotry of any kind is reprehensible. You hold unsubstantiated opinions about the broadness of others interests and seem to think that the only value within education is your imagined and exclusively 'real' world of state school education. Would you extend your argument to include all higher education as being elite and not 'real' I wonder, after all, not everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to take a degree and it costs money. I have come across people who have this attitude and who see advanced education and a well paying job as some sort of luck, when in reality these things are a testament to hard work. Hard work reaps its own rewards and one of these is more choice, including the choice to send your children to any school you see fit.
You make sweeping statements and are presumptuous about people you clearly know nothing about. Your statement about people only being interested in UCAS forms is laughable.
I went through the state system and I worked hard and created my own opportunities. I have worked in both the state and the private sector, so I am in a position to know what I am talking about. Also, I am not a little girl with a huge chip on my shoulder. I, like many people, have worked hard for what I have, and I do not need to make any apologies for it.
As for the earlier comments about state schools bringing children into contact with a wider section of society... in the area to which I am moving the demographic of all the state schools is 99% white, C of E. The private schools on the other hand are proud of the fact that they represent a number of cultures and races within their student body. By sending my daughter to a private school I will be exposing her to a diverse student population which will be to her advantage.