IF THERE is one thing that I would stick in Room 101 it’s private schools.

I’m not a staunch Labour supporter, but I would back them wholeheartedly were they to fulfil their pledge to abolish fee-paying schools and ‘integrate’ them into the state sector.

It is wrong that we live in such an unequal society, whereby private school pupils are given a huge head start in life, nurtured and presented with far greater opportunities at a young age. Getting such an educational leg up should not depend upon your parents’ income.

A study by researchers at Durham University found that pupils educated in the independent schools sector are two years ahead of their state school peers by the time they reach 16. They compared early educational performance with GCSE exam results and found the ‘private school effect’ was evident in every subject.

Only last week news emerged of the gulf in funding for music and the arts generally, between private and state schools.

If private schools did not exist, and every parent was banging the same drum, throwing their collective weight behind state education, standards would certainly rise.

Not that all state schools are bad schools. Many are superb. My own children went to the local state school and despite a few niggles, I could not complain.

But state schools lag behind. You only have to look at Oxbridge admissions to see that. Two or three places offered every year is standard for good state schools. If you look at the number of Oxbridge entries from private schools, it is far greater.

At the top private schools, virtually half the sixth form line up for the annual ‘Oxbridge offers’ photograph. At Westminster School in London, for example, in the past five years, an average of between 70 and 80 pupils per year have Oxford and Cambridge offers. This has got to be wrong.

I also believe it is vital for children to develop in an environment where they are rubbing shoulders with people from all income brackets, experiencing a cross-section of life - the real world.

It is sad that so many people have no confidence in the state system. My sister is unusual among her London friends in sending her son to a state school.

Scrapping private schools would eliminate the likelihood of having a government made up of ministers who spend their lives in a bubble of privilege - Eton, Oxbridge, House of Commons, Lords. Many will never have set foot in a sink estate. It is disturbing to see those old school photos showing Eton or Harrow year groups, with circles drawn around those in top government jobs. You’d be lucky to get one circle in 50 years from most state schools.

My husband was raised in one of these private school bubbles. Boarding - a damaging practice that should be banned outright - from a young age, he didn’t experience real life until he went to college aged 18.

Recently, while watching a TV documentary about an unruly state school, with huge class sizes and teachers fighting to keep order, he asked me: “Is it really like this?” For the umpteenth time I relayed my own experience at a good comprehensive, telling him of classes populated by kids who constantly banged desks, threw pens and fought between themselves. And while teacher training I was placed at a London school with three teachers to a class. It was terrifying.

Eliminating fee-paying schools would help to end the elitism that divides us, the gap between the privately and state educated. And there is no doubt there is one, even in my own home.