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Excuses? We're doing our bit, say independents

Gerard Kelly's editorials are always entertaining. But when he reaches for his blunderbuss, the grapeshot flies indiscriminately. Last week, he took leading independent schools to task over the work they do for the public benefit ("Struggling independents can benefit state sector", 12 October). "Meaningful ties with state schools", we learn, are only those that involve academy sponsorship. As such, reasons for pursuing "other types of partnerships" are "fast becoming unsustainable excuses". Thus, he stands revealed as a true apostle of Lord Adonis, and - like the good lord - he shows the same misunderstanding of the main point of having independent schools.

The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference is proud of its members whose schools have sponsored an academy. But it is no less proud of other work of central importance to the public good. As it is bound to do in law, each governing body separately considers how best it can promote education beyond its own gates.

Contrary to the claim of Lord Adonis in his recent book Education, Education, Education: Reforming England's Schools, the English state is not an essentially benign presence in education. As the pages of TES show every week, its addiction to micro-managing schools demonstrates repeatedly its lack of competence. Mr Kelly rightly says that "most independents are bloody good schools". As the Clinton administration might have said: "It's the independence, stupid."

William Richardson, General secretary, Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.

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