Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said she feels “incredibly sad” that children are educated outside the state system.
In an interview with TES, Ms O’Grady said it was “not great for children” to be “segregated according to the wealth of their families”.
“I think it’s sad, incredibly sad, and they miss out,” she said.
Ms O’Grady, who has led the TUC since 2013, said state schools offered “real benefits” such as teaching children empathy. “You have to mix with people from all walks of life,” she said.
State-schooled pupils could “understand that not everybody lives the same life as yourself, whatever life that is”, whereas those whose parents had chosen for them to “only mix with people like them” were not afforded this privilege, she added.
But Barnaby Lenon, chair of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), said Ms O'Grady was "out of touch with the realities of life in many independent schools".
Ms O’Grady also said teaching unions had been “amazing” over the past five years.
To read the full story, get the 17 April edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.
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