Scores of independent schools are likely to become academies in a bid to offer an academic education to pupils regardless of their ability to pay, former schools minister Andrew Adonis has said.
Over the coming years, 50 or 60 more private schools could become state-funded academies instead, he said. Writing in TES this week, Lord Adonis has predicted that the "Berlin Wall" between the state and independent sectors could finally be dismantled, with the expansion of the academies programme and the creation of free schools giving leading private institutions the opportunity to become more involved in state education.
So far just a handful of private schools have become academies, mainly in the North, as a result of the recession and an oversupply of independent schools.
He believes dozens more could convert to reconnect with their original charitable status, through a modern twist on the old direct grant scheme, which enabled private schools to become state funded while retaining their selective intakes.
"The private school would become an academy, fully retaining its independent management and character but without fees," Lord Adonis wrote. "It would exchange academically selective admissions for all-ability admissions, with a large catchment area and 'banded' admissions to ensure a fully comprehensive ability range."
Lord Adonis also criticised independent schools for failing to fulfil their charitable mission to educate poor children.
But Barnaby Lenon, chair of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), said that, while "weaker" private schools might consider converting, there is little appetite for it among his members. "Within the ISC I don't have any sense that significant numbers of independent schools are thinking of becoming academies," Mr Lenon said.
See pages 44-45
Lord Adonis is speaking at the TES-supported London Festival of Education on 17 November. For information and tickets, go to londonfestivalofeducation.com.