9th October 2017
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education bought to you by Education Advisers...
'It’s time independent school heads used their power and stepped up their social mobility efforts'
Independent schools have a big role to play in one of the biggest challenges facing our country, writes David Goodhew, head of Latymer Upper School in West London.
The country finds itself recovering from political conference season; a handful of weeks that served up an even more potent mix of political principles, infighting and intrigue than usual. One subject, however, all parties can agree on is the need to improve social mobility. It was also a subject high on the agenda at this year’s HMC conference in Belfast, as Chris King, its chair, reminded us, “Research shows that independent school pupils are around 18 months ahead of state school pupils of similar ability by GCSE – even when taking background and prior attainment into account.”
This data should come as no surprise. Research in 2012 by the IoE’s Dr John Jerrim for the IFS showed that the brightest 15-year-olds from poor backgrounds were approximately two years behind the brightest 15-year-olds from wealthy backgrounds. In the 2015 update to their paper on Open Access, the Sutton Trust noted that “the brightest 10 per cent of state school students at age 15 are 1.1 years of schooling behind their private school counterparts”. The gap isn’t just academic but also encompasses the soft skills that are increasingly important for success.
Politicians continue to debate national solutions to inequality of educational opportunity, but the situation is not improving. However, as Winston Churchill wryly observed, "Headmasters have powers at their disposal with which prime ministers have never yet been invested". Many heads of independent schools are putting what powers they may have to use, with good levels of financial support. The most recent ISC census, for example, shows that around 33 per cent of students receive some sort of fee assistance; however, only 7.7 per cent of students receive means-tested support. It’s an important distinction to make. Bursaries calculated on financial need are the most targeted way in which our sector can help children from poorer backgrounds.
There are many routes to helping improve social mobility. Independent schools are just one – but I believe they have an important role to play.
See also: Private schools can help social mobility
Charterhouse School will expand to include girls across all grades from 2021
Charterhouse School in Godalming will educate boys and girls together across all years from 2021.
The 406-year-old boarding school, which currently takes just boys from the age of 13 to 16, has now announced it will embrace girls' education in their younger years in the future.
Charterhouse currently records the highest number of enrolled pupils in its history and it is "full", a spokesman wrote in a statement.
Its endeavour to become fully coeducational means taking on another 180 girls, and expanding to accommodate around 1,000 pupils on the Godalming grounds.
The school roll is currently filled with mostly boys, although 150 of the 820 students are girls in sixth form.
The school says the move aims to keep its educational programs at "the forefront of modern independent education".
Figures by the Independent Schools Council indicate that 74% of their member schools are currently teaching both boys and girls.
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