Independent schools 'need all the friends they can get'

Schools leaders says private sector feels the need to make its case for political support

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the ISC

A private schools leader has said “independent schools need all the friends they can get” as a new report was published to demonstrate the economic boost they provide.

The Independent Schools Council say new research has shown private schools in the UK are saving the taxpayer £3.5 billion by educating more than 600,000 pupils and contributing £13.7 billion to the economy.

Barnaby Lenon, the chairman of the ISC, said independent schools were not making a political point by publishing the new report but felt the need to demonstrate their importance to politicians.

He said: “We are hoping that politicians who have the power to impact on the education system appreciate the level of contribution our schools are making and this is just one part of the overall jigsaw.”

He added: “Independent schools need as many friends as they can get. We do depend to some extent on political goodwill and that means that the opinion formers, politicians, press and parents need to be given reliable hard information"

The report comes amid fresh concerns over Labour’s plans to put VAT on independent school fees.

And yesterday a deputy head warned that “independent schools appear to be legitimate targets for all those who want to rail against privilege.”

Writing for Tes, David James warned that private schools were not getting enough support from the Conservative Party.

The report, published today by the ISC, found that independent schools support just over 300,000 jobs, either directly or indirectly.

ISC general secretary Julie Robinson said: “Independent schools are quite often dealt with as though they are a separate element of the country because they are called private when in fact they operate is fully integrated into their communities and the education system.

"It is one education system and this is our way of demonstrating how we connect with other parts of the country.”

The report has been published today at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference's annual conference in Manchester.

Last week the HMC’s new executive director Mike Buchanan raised concerns about Labour’s plans to put VAT on independent school fees.

He said that the plan would actually cost the state money as it would lead to increased fees, reduced bursaries and lead to large numbers of pupils leaving the independent sector.

And on the opening day of the HMC conference on Monday its chairman, Shaun Fenton, said critics should "lay off" the parents of children in independent schools,

He said these parents work hard and choose to spend their income investing in their children's future.

The headmaster of Reigate Grammar School thanked parents for the sacrifices they make and said they should not be criticised.

In his opening remarks, he said: "They are investing in educational opportunity for their children, making decisions often to sacrifice and save the school fees. They want to decide how to spend their after-tax income and they decide they want to invest it in their children's future and then they choose our schools.

 “Good parents should do their best for their children. I ask that you lay off independent school parents and start supporting good parenting."

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