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EDITIONS
Monday, 7 October, 2002, 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK
Private schools partnership demand
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Head teachers from the state and independent sectors say that private schools should be made to work together with their state counterparts.


It is the children who are most in need of privileged education who are least likely to receive it

Pamphlet authors

They say such partnerships could help to break down the class system and end the "polarisation" of society.

And unless private schools joined such partnerships they should lose their charitable status, say the heads.

The idea is a central point in a pamphlet written by Antony Edkins, head of Falmer High School in Brighton, and Anthony Seldon, head of Brighton College.

Fees for day pupils at Brighton College are 11,000 a year - the same as the average family income of pupils at Falmer High.

Under-funded

Their thoughts have been published by the centre-left think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which is holding a one-day conference at Brighton College on Tuesday on the future of state/independent school partnerships.

The School Standards Minister, David Miliband, is due to address the conference.

The partnerships are part of government education policy, but the pamphlet's authors complain that since 1997, spending on them - about 4m - has been less than the budget of a large comprehensive school.

They say they will become more widespread only if that funding is increased "dramatically" - but also if there is an element of coercion on the independent schools.

Inferior

In their pamphlet, Partnership not Paternalism, they say no other developed country has such a gulf between two systems of education.

"The divide is deeply damaging in a variety of ways, social, pastoral and academic" - perpetuating the British class system.

"Poor children generally receive an inferior education while the better-off, whose parents can afford independent school fees, receive a privileged education.

"It is the children who are most in need of the kind of privileged education enjoyed currently by the few who are least likely to receive it."

They conclude:

  • every private school should appoint a partnership co-ordinator
  • inspectors should treat partnership as a mandatory activity
  • all new teachers should have to spend their first three years in state schools

They admit that the benefits would be largely one-sided, but say that partnership activities expose independent school pupils to children from a far wider social and cultural range.

But they say abolishing private schools is a non-starter, so partnership is the only way forward.

Opportunistic

There are suspicions on both sides - and one fear is that letting state school teachers see "how the other half lives" might simply disillusion them further, or prompt them to apply for jobs in the private sector.

They say some independent school heads have had complaints from parents who object to money being spent on state school pupils "with no immediate benefit to their own children".

And they reveal that some independent schools have sought funding for partnerships as a way of getting into primary schools to recruit, perhaps through academic "master classes" or sports tournaments.

"Most of such projects were weeded out, and funding rejected," they say.

Sustainability

The heads advocate threatening to remove the charitable status of independent schools which do not get involved in partnerships.

They say Labour might find it "politically too awkward to put the squeeze on" in this way - but argue that such obstacles can be overcome.

They say "forced marriages" exist throughout the education system, and are sustainable as long as the financial incentives and support are forthcoming.

"There is no alternative to partnership unless we are to see an increasingly polarised country continue to be underpinned by our increasingly polarised education system."

See also:

21 Nov 01 | Education
19 Mar 01 | Education
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