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Private schools must not be 'bullied' into academy sponsorship, says former head of Harrow

Private schools “must not be bullied” into sponsoring academies, a senior figure in the independent sector said today.

The expectation that state schools should be helped by their independent counterparts is also “not fair” on parents who have paid private school fees, according to Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council.

The former head of Harrow School argued that if the government wanted to improve social mobility it should instead subsidise places at independent schools.

In recent years, fee-paying schools have been coming under increasing pressure to sponsor academies. Prime minister David Cameron has said he wants to see more such deals and for the “apartheid” between the state and private sectors to disappear.

Last year, Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw attacked elite independent schools for their lack of academy sponsorship and claimed that the support they did offer amounted to the “crumbs” off their tables.

But this morning Mr Lenon said: “We must be careful not to jump on the bandwagon and expect all schools to sponsor academies. We must not be bullied. Sponsoring academies can work for schools with the resources and expertise but it is not the only way forward for our schools.”

When independent schools have sponsored academies it has not always gone well. In January, London's Dulwich College ended its sponsorship of the troubled Isle of Sheppey Academy, Kent, after admitting its staff were not equipped to help pupils at the state comprehensive.

Speaking at a Conservative Party conference event today, Mr Lenon said that most ISC schools were already “very involved with” local state schools, offering revision classes, university entrance workshops, shared subject workshops, and coaching in music, drama and sport.

“What would have an even bigger impact on social mobility would be to help more of the nation’s pupils go to our schools,” he added. “If government truly want independent schools to help improve social mobility, they need to work with us.

“It is not fair to expect parents, many of whom struggle to pay fees themselves, who have already paid once through their taxes and a second time through their fees, to help a third time by funding our schools to help state schools.”

Related stories: 

Critics of private schools should 'move beyond envy', says head September 29 2014

Dulwich College pulls out of academy sponsorship October 4 2013

Michael Wilshaw: Private schools are offering "crumbs off their table" to state schools October 2 2013


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