The former head of Brighton College has called on wealthy parents to pay up to £20,000 a year to send their children to the most popular state schools.
Dr Anthony Seldon, who was head from 1997 to 2006, also said private schools should be made to reserve a quarter of their places for children from the poorest families.
In a report for the Social Market Foundation think-tank, the nowmaster at Wellington College in Berkshire said the move was essential to close the “unfair” gap in achievement between the richest and poorest.
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The 60-year-old said: “We have to end this unfair farce whereby middle-class parents dominate the best schools, when they could afford to pay and even boast of their moral superiority in using the state system when all they are doing is squeezing out the poor from the best schools.”
Laying out his proposal Dr Seldon said families with a combined income of £80,000 should be charged if their child attends an oversubscribed school.
Those earning £200,000 a year would be forced to pay £20,000 a year for secondary schools and £15,000 for primary schools.
The amounts are equivalent to what it would cost at private schools.
He added it is only fair that if parents can afford to pay for better schooling, which they have secured by using their sharp elbows to monopolise the best schools, then they should be made to do so. He said: “Instead of estate agents and private tutors getting rich let’s put this money into the state system.
“The more parents earn the more they should pay”.
Explaining his fears in the report, he said the waste of talent was harming the country’s economic progress.
The finger was largely pointed at wealthy parents who he said creamed the places at the best state schools by buying houses in the local catchment area and then paying for private tutoring to ensure their children passed the entry exam if required.
As part of his proposal he also said more private schools should sponsor state academies.
He concluded: “Britain will be in debt for many years to come. We should be looking for every possible source of extra funds to come into public services and state schooling is the last great bastion holding out against the principle of payment.”