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Ministers must not turn to independents to "solve state schools' problems"

The government should think of its own ways to improve state schools rather than "turning to the independent sector to solve their problems”, a key figure in the independent sector has said.

The argument that schools have a “moral obligation” to support state schools is “not strong enough on its own,” said Mike Lower, general secretary of the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association, in an interview with TES.

Mr Lower spoke in the week that Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw claimed many private school partnerships with maintained schools amounted to nothing more than "crumbs off the table", and urged them to do more.

In a speech to the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference of elite private schools, Sir Michael said schools needed to "search their consciences" and overcome the barriers to helping their state counterparts.

But Mr Lower, speaking personally, said there were private school bursars “wincing at the expectation that private schools should be supporting the maintained sector at a real cost to their own schools.”

He added it was unfair on already hard-pressed parents to expect them to foot the bill of supporting the state sector. Partnerships where schools lend teachers and expertise to state schools all had a cost, even if money did not change hands, he said.

"From a business perspective, where bursars come from, why should our sector be financially supporting the maintained sector?

“It’s all very well for the government to lay down the gauntlet [for private schools to support state schools] but why should we pick up and run with that gauntlet?” he said.

He added that a majority of private schools were already socially inclusive and a third of pupils already received assistance with their fees. “Some schools have a considerable number from a disadvantaged background,” he said.

Later he added: “We would all subscribe to improvement in maintained schools, I would personally like to see that achieved by the Department for Education bringing in better standards, better support, rather than turning to the independent sector to solve their problems for them.

“I would rather see the maintained sector improve without having to rely on the independent sector.”

 

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