3rd October 2018
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education brought to you by Education Advisers...
Working together, state and private schools can save education
Former independent school headteacher and a past chair of HMC Dr Bernard Trafford says “Let's break down the barriers between state and private schools to ensure all pupils receive the best education”.
Seeing the independent sector as a “problem” is a prevalent but willfully jaundiced political and media angle. Far from being pleased that international studies such as PISA identify it as a group of the best schools in the world, our nation’s skewed political lens sees something dirty in it.
By contrast, the recent joint understanding between the Independent Schools Council and the DfE (endorsed, if quietly, by education secretary Damian Hinds) demonstrates a willingness to work together. Schools up and down the country are rightly proud of the excellent cross-sector partnership work that, through teacher-training, CPD, sporting, cultural and a host of other shared activities, are achieving significant local, regional and national impacts for children.
A year or two back, the UK’s independent sector offered 10,000 places in its schools, if the government would fund them at its national per capita rate. At a stroke this would have started to bridge the perceived divide, open up the private sector and help address the impending national shortage of school places.
That offer was unfairly caricatured in much of the media as the sector trying to fill its empty places. The urban independent schools I have run represent a powerful segment within the sector. The former city and/or direct grant grammars are frequently oversubscribed: nonetheless, always mindful of their historical mission, they grieve that their strenuous efforts at fundraising rarely stretch to financing even 10 per cent of their places for children from deprived backgrounds.
Politicians should recognise that three-quarters of independent schools are charities, like multi-academy trusts (MATs), making no profit and ploughing all earnings, any surpluses, back into the education provided.
Lay off parents who choose private school, head says
Critics should “lay off” families who pay for their children to go to private school, according to a leading headmaster, who called investing salaries in education “good parenting”.
Shaun Fenton, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference of 280 independent schools, said that it was a shame that parents felt they had to justify choosing private education. “If the alternative is that you sacrifice the interests of your children’s education for some kind of political ideology or some kind of virtue flagging, that doesn’t seem to be authentic parenting,” he said.
Mr Fenton said that too often parents who sent their children to private schools felt that they had to explain themselves “to all sorts of people” at work or in their social circle.
Addressing the annual conference Mr Fenton thanked parents for the sacrifices they made to afford school fees. “They want to decide how to spend their after-tax income and they decide they want to invest it in their children’s future and then they choose our schools. Good parents should do their best for their children,” he said. “I ask that you lay off independent school parents and start supporting good parenting.”
Mr Fenton, who is headmaster of Reigate Grammar, added that many of his pupils went on to do great things. “I would like to thank the parents of children in our school for making this happen,” he said.
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