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The independent heads' head

PERHAPS three points above all lodge firmly in the mind on reading Libby Purves' typically perceptive article on the Royal Hospital School and Nicholas Ward, now on his last lap as its headmaster (TES, Friday magazine, February 14).

First, the absence of any trace of the stereotype of the independent school headmaster - the arrogant or quirky leader - in the engaging, rather self-deprecating but tough character of Mr Ward. Does he not come across as the very model of the versatile, successful modern head needed in all schools?

Second, the article provides a telling reminder of the sheer variety of schools to be found in the independent sector. The pupils are given every assistance in developing all aspects of their potential - academic and non-academic. Mr Ward makes clear that he has little time for toffs, a view shared by many of his colleagues.

Finally, such a school surely sends out a clear message that for certain children boarding is the right option. The time has come for local education authorities and the Government to make it an option that families of all incomes can exercise - as, with the assistance of the appropriate grants they were able to do, up until quite recently.

Alistair Cooke

General secretary

Independent Schools Council

London SW1

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