12th March 2018
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Private schools should adopt a Ucas-style application system, leading headmaster says
Under the current set-up, eleven-year-old pupils are forced by pushy parents to sit endless entrance exams, according to Stephen Lehec, head of Kingston Grammar School.
If independent schools adopted a similar approach to the university application system, he argued, this would mean children can sit just one exam for all schools, and allow parents to prioritise their choices.
He said that at the moment, the whole rigmarole of getting a school place at a highly competitive school is a “gamble”, as schools can make more offers than they have places for, only to withdraw some at a later date, leaving parents and children disappointed.
He said that an independent, centralised admission system for all independent schools would “stamp out the worst abuses” by schools, and offer more certainty for parents.
It would also benefit children, as they would not have to go through the stress of sitting a dozen different exams.
“It can’t be good for a child’s wellbeing to have to sit eight or ten entry tests and dragged around eight or ten schools,” he said. “It would be a lot less stressful for them if applications were limited to four or five schools.”
Out of over 1,300 private schools in the UK, 190 use the Common Entrance exam either at age 11 or age 13, but the vast majority of schools set their own bespoke tests.
Mr Lehec admitted that the idea of a centralised application system for private schools may not be popular with some of his colleagues as it may be seen as running counter to the ethos of independence.
Independent school inspections under scrutiny
Most independent schools don't have to answer to Ofsted – but their own inspectorate does. And in some cases, private school inspection reports are overlooking failings, Ofsted has warned
The watchdog charged with overseeing standards in many of England's top public schools has faced criticism for the way it has presented inspection findings.
Ofsted only inspects some independent schools. Others are inspected by bodies such as the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) instead.
But, each year, Ofsted prepares a report for the education secretary about how some of these other inspectorates – including the ISI – have carried out their work.
For a report on the ISI, published last week, Ofsted looked at a sample of 11 inspection reports produced by the inspectorate in 2016-17.
It found that two of these reports gave schools a clean bill of health – despite finding leadership and management failings.
Because inspectors failed to reflect these failings in their overall judgements, the ISI flouted its own guidance, according to Ofsted.
The ISI has declined to comment on Ofsted's findings.
It's important to remember that problems were only found in two inspection reports; the ISI carried out 415 inspections in the year concerned.
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