12th December 2017
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education bought to you by Education Advisers...
'This constant bashing of independent schools needs to end'
It's wrong to say that independent schools simply educate the elite without a care for others, when in reality, we're part of the solution to social mobility, writes Julian Thomas, the master of Wellington College
As the head of an independent school, there is now a weary acceptance that, as political easy wins go, we are the equivalent of Manchester United against Leyton Orient (with apologies to my beloved club). It is so easy for politicians and commentators to gain political ground by bashing the sector. Make a comment about independent schools and you will quickly gain the support of a small army, all applauding your stand.
This week, it was the turn of Robert Halfon MP to rage against us, demanding that a levy be brought in for private schools saying that “the current social contract between the government and independent schools is clearly not working”.
Then in a response to the news that Westminster is setting up schools in China, Lord Adonis opined that this shows how little our “public” schools are interacting with their own country: “They should be in Bradford, not Beijing.” Completely ignoring the Westminster Harris Academy set up just down the road offering an outstanding education to the very same children Mr Halfon and Lord Adonis wish us to support.
It is certainly true to say that in the eighties and nineties, the independent sector had completely lost sight of its social responsibilities. Support was focused inward and the schools made very little impact nationally or locally. But then, a new generation of socially responsible heads began an important process that has resulted in the most significant shift in the independent sector in many decades.
But you would never know it. In the noughties, it started with the joint use of playing fields and swimming pools. School CCFs started to run joint operations and there were the beginnings of genuine partnerships. These were the areas Sir Michael Wilshaw memorably described as “crumbs from the table”. Nevertheless, this seemed to spark something of a quiet revolution and the result is that independent schools are now very much part of the solution to social mobility rather than part of the problem.
There is no expectation of praise – that’s not the point – but I do think the public deserves to know the truth and maybe a few days respite from the independent school bashing that gives politicians such easy publicity.
Stop expelling troublesome pupils to boost league table performance, Chief Inspector says
Headteachers who try to “game” the system by pushing out youngsters who they fear may drag down the school’s ranking have “lost sight of the purpose of education”, Amanda Spielman will say.
Her comments come after research revealed that off rolling - where pupils are expelled before they sit their GCSEs at the end of Year 11 - is on the rise, particularly among children with special educational needs (SEND).
Schools can ensure that poorly behaved youngsters are taken off their register either by going through a formal process of exclusion, or by exerting pressure of parents to withdraw their child.
In a speech this week, Ms Spielman will say: “Dealing with students of different needs isn’t always easy but in the end the job of educators is to do what’s right by children.
“That does not mean passing the job to parents, without professional expertise, to home educate their children.
“Children with Special Educational Needs are not a problem to be pushed out of sight and out of mind.”
17th December 2018
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13th December 2018