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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Should the prime minister be turning to private tutors?
Tony Blair has come under heavy criticism following reports that his sons have been given private tuition by teachers from a top public school.

Downing Street refused to comment on a Spectator magazine report saying Euan and Nicholas Blair, who attend a state school, the London Oratory, have received teaching at home.

The Liberal Democrats attacked the prime minister for "hypocrisy" and having an "astonishing" lack of faith in the state school system.

Do you support Mr Blair's decision to hire private tutors for his sons? Or do you think this is simply a private matter?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Let's face it, the state school attended by the Blair children is not a run of the mill state school. Wouldn't we all have believed that Mr Blair was backing the school system that Jo Public has to use, if they had gone to a local Islington school? This is as elitist as the 11+ exam that is denigrated and supposedly abhorred by the Labour party.
Wendy, U.K.

It is effectively an admission that the state system is not what it should be

Like any parent, Blair clearly wants to give his children the best possible education. However, given his position, it is effectively an admission that the state system is not what it should be, and that is something that needs to be addressed.

It appears from all this that the Blairs believe ability is severely limited by the teaching you get in a state school. The availability of good education for all is at the very centre of democracy and without this availability democracy is a sham. I am sure that other members of the Labour Party like me are getting a bit tired of the way that Blair preaches one thing but practices another. He must ask himself the bigger question: does Britain want an inclusive society or one where privilege continues to dictate opportunity. Make state schools better than the public schools or Britain will lose out to countries where everyone gets a chance to show what they can do.
Clive Egan, Germany

If the PM is fair game, then so is the leader of the opposition. At least Tony Blair's children are educated in the state sector, whereas Ian Duncan Smith's are not. I would suggest that if, after 18 years of Tory government, Mr Duncan Smith cannot bring himself to use the state sector then how can we ever take seriously his new found interest in public services? Even if it were a fair criticism, I'd rather have a "champagne socialist" in charge of education than a wolf in sheep's clothing, because at least there is now some attempt to share the champagne round a bit.
Steve, UK

This is typical behaviour of the government. Mr Blair using his taxpayer-funded salary to pay for private education. Pension funds being taxed while MPs vote themselves a final salary pension increase. ID cards being introduced, when the PM won't even confirm whether he agrees with the MMR. It's one rule for the powerful, and another for the plebs.
Martin, England, UK

Are we living in a communist society? No! If you have the money you can spend it the way you wish. Mr Blair only wants the best for his children, if he can afford tuition then that's his choice. That is why we live in a democratic society, we have the choice. Tony Blair should have the choice.
Stuart, UK

As a father Tony Blair has got the right to choose what is good for his children. Just because he is a public figure does not mean he has to decide according to the public's mandate even for his children's education. That is his personal life and should be kept private. Would we like our public life thrown out into a public debate?
Madhuri, New Zealand

Should the prime minister turn to tutors to teach his sons? Well he had better do something, hadn't he? In Britain as elsewhere, your children get the best education that your money can buy. That way, the privileged classes will always have a leg up on the less fortunate and will be well versed later on when they assume power and need to explain why everybody in Britain lives in a democracy where each citizen has an equal chance at success in life. Silver spoons to some mouths, golden spoons to others.
Mark, USA

What Mr. and Mrs. Blair decide is in the best interests of their children is their business and their business only. He may be our Prime Minister, but that does not give the media and public the God given right to pry into the affairs of the Blair family.
D Walton, UK

I don't mind how Blair educates his children, and I don't think it should be brought into the discussion (any more than whether his child had the MMR vaccine). But if he is in charge of the Labour Party, the flip side of that is that he should denounce Robin Cook for attacking Iain Duncan Smith's education of his children. He can't expect to be the only one protected from such attacks.
Andrew Lilico, UK

I have no problem as to how Blair seeks every advantage for his kids, but having dismantled the grammar schools, undermined the respect of teachers everywhere in Britain with his socialist education programmes, it's a bit rich to hire private tutors for his kids, clearly this is only for the privileged elite of socialist Britain. The hypocrisy is disgusting, I guess the dumbing down of Britain is OK so long as you can opt out. Nauseating!
John A, U.S.A.

As if the kids of a prime minister are ever going to struggle to get on in life
Jenny, London, UK

A great way of stretching brighter children

Deborah, UK
I think private tuition is a great way of stretching brighter children or allowing them to pursue a subject, another language for example which is not taught at school. It should not, however, be a substitute for a substandard Maths or Science teacher. Ideally what the Government should be striving towards though is for children of all levels of ability and interests to be able to flourish within a state school system, which would make private tuition unnecessary.
Deborah, UK

Extra tuition is something which should be available for all who need it, not just those who can afford it. In particular it should be available for children with special needs such as dyslexia and other learning difficulties so that they can attain their true potential.
Chazz, Scotland

Just because you support free education doesn't mean your child has to be penalised if that system is not up to the standard you want. Would there be uproar if he bought his child a book that wasn't provided by the state system? It would reflect badly on the PM if he didn't give his children the best he could afford. I'm not saying it's fair but I do as a responsible father he is doing his job.
Emma, UK

The height of nepotism from another champagne socialist

Frank, England
Blair reduces the amount of money available to middle-class parents, uses his tax-funded income to boost his already-privileged kids even higher whilst at the same time reducing our children's opportunities to succeed. This is the height of nepotism from yet another champagne socialist.
Frank, England

What is Tony Blair suppose to do? If his children require additional tutoring, is he to deprive them of this to appease the opposition?
Craig, Scotland

Would the press and broadcasters be attacking the Blairs in this way if, instead of hiring tutors, Cherie Booth took two afternoons off each week to tutor her children? I'm no fan of Blair but parts of the press, I think, have a "get Blair at any cost" agenda which creates these distorted and sensationalist stories.
David, UK

You lead by example

John, UK
The party line only seems to apply to us plebs that pay his wages. Whether it's MMR or education, Tony Blair thinks he can tell us that what we have been provided with is good enough and then go and pay for a decent service elsewhere for his own family. You lead by example. If the local comp isn't good enough for his kids, then it's not good enough for anyone's kids.
John, UK

I've got no problem with Blair sending his children to a private or public school, or whatever... but I would like to know why he thinks state schools are not good enough for his children, when the rest of us have to make do?
Martina, UK

Blair has all but admitted that the State sector is failing. He should have the courage of his convictions and send them directly to the school whose tutors he is hiring on the side. But then again, that would require courage and conviction. Our PM has neither.
Edwin, Britain

I wouldn't trust ANY government, to educate a cat

Leszek Luchowski, Poland
Nobody expects them to eat at a soup kitchen but when he spends his private money in the most praiseworthy of all ways, on the education of his own children, he gets frowned upon. Showing a lack of faith in the state school system? Of course he is! I wouldn't trust ANY government, to educate a cat. The state ought to issue school vouchers, so everybody can have a decent level of education, and let people decide how much more they can and will spend.
Leszek Luchowski, Poland

As long as he pays for it himself, who cares?
Victor D, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

I think fair enough. I had a bit of extra private tuition here and there to help me with certain subjects. I didn't see it as a failure on the school's side (I went to comprehensive). I just saw it as me needing a bit of extra help. Some people do, some people don't. Stop the witch-hunt; we are lucky to get the education we do.
Andrew, UK

Blair is telling the nation that our education is not good enough

David Eccleston, UK
We should be able to provide every child in the country with a decent education so that parents don't need to use private tutors. However, since actions speak louder than words, Tony Blair is telling the nation that our education is not good enough. And for once I agree with him.
David Eccleston, UK

If his sons aren't able to reach the required level for passing their exams at a state school, then of course they should be given private tuition. This says nothing about state schools or Blair's opinion of them, just about his children's abilities.
Jez, UK

Another classic example of Labour "Do as I say - not what I do" rhetoric. They come into power with the intention of dismantling the grammar school system, so that we can all send our children to second rate comprehensives. Then they have the nerve to get their kids into the best comprehensive in the country, backed up with plenty of private tuition to ensure that the kids follow Mummy and Daddy into politics and law. These bourgeois politicians!
Andy M, England

What a non-issue; Tony Blair will be accused of hypocrisy for shopping in Waitrose next. Loads of ordinary kids have extra tuition to get them through GCSEs and areas where they are weak, including my daughter. Not that it did any good though, she still failed. I would have been better off boozing my money away.
Vicki, England

Going by the past performances, Mr Blair will be able to put some spin on this story to make it sound as if the Blairs are making a great sacrifice for the good of the country by hiring private tutors, and that everybody who criticises is out to destroy everything sacred to Britain.
Pete Hazell, UK

Had it been Estelle Morris then it would have been another matter

David, England
However much damage I feel Tony Blair is doing to this country, I believe that this is a private matter. However, had it been Estelle Morris then it would have been another matter altogether.
David, England

As someone who like Mr Blair, was educated at a "top" public school and now has children in state schools, I can attest that that there are good and bad teachers in both systems. Where these tutors come from is immaterial so long as they are good at their job and doesn't display a lack of faith in one system or another.
Michael, UK

The prime minister has every right to educate his children in the way he considers most appropriate. What is a shame is when he appears to seek to deny the rest of us that same right, and indeed does not restrain his government from attacking Iain Duncan Smith for doing the same.
John B, UK

Mr Blair is proving to be a top class sidestepper

Mel, London
Tony Blair simply will not practise what he preaches. His kids go to a top private school and have tuition as well. That is a parent's choice; but not when they spend the whole time extolling the virtues of 'education, education, education' only to shun it and pay for top class private schooling. Mr Blair is proving to be a top class sidestepper of any issue of matter.
Mel, London

We never hear any complaints when rich people buy nice cars, or big houses, or go to expensive restaurants, or anything except this, and possibly private healthcare. Why for goodness sake? Blair can also afford to buy his children new shoes for example, but not everyone can, so should he expect criticism from some MPs for that? No of course not. This criticism is ridiculous, and would only be valid in a communist state.
Jon Cooper, UK

This just shows the hypocrisy that is inherent in the system. One rule for those in power, another for the plebs. Thanks Tony; you have made us all feel a lot better.
Pete, England

Without this extra support, I believe my son would still not be able to read

Amanda D Murray, England
For goodness' sake, most parents do what the Blairs have done. It is not about not having faith in the education system, it is about just wanting to heighten your children's chances of success. My son is dyslexic and I pay for private tuition. Without this extra support, I believe my son would still not be able to read now. Who doesn't want the best for their children? Be honest!
Amanda D Murray, England

Don't do as I do, do as I say. That about sums it up.
Nick, UK

The Prime Minister should do what he sees fit for his children - but he should also allow other parents the same freedom of choice.
Craig Miller, UK

I do not have the power to improve the quality of education where I live, no matter which way I vote

Phil, UK
As a parent myself, I want the best possible education for my son, just as Tony Blair and Iain Duncan Smith wish for their children. However, politicians, already criticised for being out of touch must lead by example. They cannot sit back and watch the comprehensive system collapse, while they are in a position to opt out from it. I do not have the power to improve the quality of education where I live, no matter which way I vote, and I do not have the money to educate my child privately or to top up studies with private tuition.
Phil, UK

Hardly an earth-shattering revelation, is it? If parents want to provide private education for their children, why shouldn't they? In the Blairs' case one can draw various inferences from the decision, including the unspoken admission that either the Blair children or the state facilities - or both - are educationally wanting. On a darker note it also implies that Blair wants to run the lefty show but not be a part of it. Nothing new there then.
Chris B, England

What difference is there between that and sending your children for music, dance, drama or whatever lessons?

Eddie, UK
I think it is a private matter. I was sent to a non-state school by left wing parents because my father, as a psychiatrist, had several teachers who were his patients - this could have made things very awkward - and the only way to go to school outside my father's area was to go to an independent school. There are many factors in obtaining the best for your children, and in this area, I think the Blairs have probably made the right decision. As for the private tutors - what difference is there between that and sending your children for music, dance, drama or whatever lessons outside of the school, which many, many people do?
Eddie, UK

See also:

05 Jul 02 | UK Politics
04 Jul 02 | UK Politics
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