Having spent my entire teaching career in the state sector, I’ve hesitated to write about private education. I’ve always been ambivalent, believing it’s up to parents how they spend their money. My laid-back attitude is probably down to my own privileged secondary experience.

I’ve written before how a golden ticket in the 11+ provided access to the local grammar school. Yes, yes, I know it was the “Qually” in the Central Belt, so don’t write in. It will come as a shock to some, but there’s more to Scotland than the Central Belt. In my part of the country, it was never the “Qually.” Misguided we might have been, but it was the 11+ to us.

As a boy from the schemes, my secondary schooling opened new horizons. As a 13-year-old on a rugby trip, I stayed the night before the match in the home of my opposite number. The house was palatial and someone actually brought your food to the table. Memorably, it was my first encounter with asparagus. The dad quizzed me throughout “dinner.” In our house, dinner was around midday and mum wasn’t big on asparagus. Next day, I learned dad was a High Court judge.

Similar experiences offered insight into the power of education to unlock potential and change lives. Sadly, unfairness has grown, not only in education, but across all aspects of society. Has there ever been a Westminster government with such disregard for fairness and equality? One nation Conservatism should be added to Father Dougal’s list of things that don’t exist, alongside the Loch Ness Monster, Darth Vader and non-Catholic Gods.

It's likely the roots of current social and economic unfairness lie in the education system. Levelling up must start there and the private schools have a part to play in levelling up and closing the attainment gap. It can’t be allowed to look the other way. Please note, this is a call for reform, not abolition.

There have been many opportunities to bring the private and state sectors closer together. Despite the post-war consensus for fairness and social mobility, the private sector was largely untouched by the Education Acts of 1944 and 1945. With an Old Fettesian at the helm, we shouldn’t be surprised New Labour failed to exploit its 1997 landslide to institute reform.

The call for reform isn’t motivated by malice or envy. I wouldn’t wish my children to attend private schools, particularly given the evidence placed before the Inquiry into Historical Child Abuse. It boils down to fairness and it’s not enough to shrug and say, “life’s unfair.”

Educating according to parents’ ability to pay is surely wrong. The providers and purchasers are aware it’s unfair. Dog whistle publicity implies private education guarantees your child a head start. Unfortunately, they’re correct. I know parents with children at private schools outraged at even the suggestion of reform and having to share “what we’ve worked and paid for.” I’m reminded of Stephen Spender’s 1933 poem, My Parents. “My parents kept me from children who were rough; and threw words like stones; and wore torn clothes.” Inevitably, class is in the mix.

We’re not talking about the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Scottish Government needs to consider how the strengths and qualities of the private sector can be distributed more fairly. I doubt if the general quality of teaching in the private sector is any better than its state equivalent. What is better are the smaller classes, better facilities, sport, and outdoor education.

As a starting point, the Government could do worse than consider ways of bringing together S5 and S6 students from both sectors, thus levelling the playing field in areas such as university entrance, particularly for Oxbridge. Retention of charitable status could offer an incentive to change.

Not rocket science, but last year’s incident at Eton College was not encouraging. A visiting group of girls from a state school was booed and subject to racial and misogynistic abuse. The incident encapsulated both the sense of inbred privilege and entitlement and the pressing need for reform.