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Wednesday, May 19, 1999 Published at 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK


Private school for the poor

Chemistry lessons at the Belvedere School in Liverpool

A millionaire philanthropist is to pay for gifted children from deprived families to attend private school.

Peter Lampl on Radio 5 live: "Belvedere School is to be open to any girl in Merseyside"
The Sutton Trust, funded by businessman Peter Lampl, is setting up a pilot scheme in which pupils who pass an entrance exam will be accepted to a private school regardless of their parent's income.

Belvedere School in Toxteth, Liverpool, is intended to be the first of a network of "open access" private schools which the Sutton Trust wants to create across the country.

[ image: Peter Lampl wants to reduce the divide between the educationally advantaged and disadvantaged]
Peter Lampl wants to reduce the divide between the educationally advantaged and disadvantaged
From September 2000, the families of pupils who gain places at the school will be means-tested, with up to 80% of those admitted expected to receive assistance towards the £4,600 a year fees. The pilot project is being run in conjunction with the Girls Day School Trust.

Mr Lampl, who made his fortune in equity investments in the United States, wants the scheme to receive support from the government or private investors so that the brightest children throughout the country can have the choice of attending successful private schools, regardless of cost.

"The under-achievement of bright children from poor families in this country is an outrage, and I'm determined to do everything I can to address that issue," said Mr Lampl.

As evidence of the growing gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged, he pointed to a fall in the proportion of students from state education entering Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Subsidised places at private schools were provided by the last government, under the "assisted places scheme".

Abolishing this controversial funding of private schools with state education money was one of the first legislative acts of the incoming Labour government.

But Mr Lampl says his open access project will be far more likely to provide help for poor families than the assisted places scheme, which he says was more likely to save the middle classes money than to assist the needy.

"Assisted places were a hand-me-down, a charity, with just a few places for poor children. Actually, it was the middle classes who made the best use of it.

"At this school, all the places will be available for poor local children if they are bright enough. It will not be a school for rich children with a few poor children parachuted in."

The project has received a guarded welcome from the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association. John Dunford applauded Peter Lampl's commitment to the "socially disadvantaged", but pointed to the possible adverse consequences for neighbouring state schools if the most able pupils were to be sent to private schools.

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