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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Head attacks elite public schools
Dr Anthony Seldon
"They give the sector a bad name," says Dr Seldon.
The head teacher of an independent school says elite private schools should lose their charitable status and tax concessions.

Anthony Seldon, the head of Brighton College, says socially exclusive schools are giving the whole independent sector a bad name.

Parents send their children to such places because they don't want them to mix with common children, he says.

His comments have angered other heads, who have dismissed his claims.

Mr Seldon made the comments at a parliamentary committee hearing.

He told MPs socially elite schools - which he chose not to name - did not deserve their charitable status because although they might give to charity, they were exclusive and not involved with the local community.

"I believe that a lot of parents are doing it for socially exclusive reasons. They don't want their children to mix with 'spiky' children," Dr Seldon told a committee of MPs examining the draft Charities Bill.

"Where parents chose a school for socially exclusive reasons, more should be expected of the school," he said.

'Huge sacrifices'

On the Today Programme on BBC Radio Four he said: "These socially exclusive schools do a lot of good charitable work - but they have the funds to do it.

"Ninety-five per cent of private schools struggle. The parents are making huge sacrifices to send their children there."

He argued that there should not be one system of deciding which schools should have charitable status.

Under the Charities Bill, all charities - including those which are private schools - would have to show they benefit the public to keep their charitable status and tax benefits.

Mr Seldon's comments have angered representatives of the country's top independent schools.

Martin Stephen is the chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), which represents some of the leading independent schools and is also High Master of Manchester Grammar School.

He is angry that Dr Seldon has not named the schools he is referring to so they can defend themselves and says leading schools have good records on charity.

"It is very patronising to members and parents. This is not 1954, it's 2004 and we have changed," he said.

"Dr Seldon should name the schools so they can defend themselves. Blanket accusations don't work.

"The independent sector welcomes the fact that the Charities Commission would regulate them."

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