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Private schools, public partners

Your article "Independents must open up to hoi polloi" (TES, July 18) fails to acknowledge the large amount already being done by private schools for community benefit.

This work takes a variety of different forms. For example, our recent survey showed that more than half of our member schools are involved in some form of partnership activity often, though not exclusively, with maintained schools.

Help with language teaching and music are typical. Almost the entire costs are met by our member schools. And just over a fifth of them have already applied to take part in the independentstate school partnership scheme started by the Government in 1998.

Substantial help is provided through scholarships and bursaries to help less well-off families pay fees: nearly a third of all pupils in our schools benefit from fee reductions.

It is true that our facilities are not used widely by maintained schools.

Often the facilities on offer are simply unsuitable in size or location.

But more significant are timetabling problems. Our schools' facilities are therefore generally available in the evenings and school holidays.

The Government's new policy proposals take note of the major (and long-standing) contribution made by our schools to the wider community (no more references please to "hoi polloi").

A fair and flexible public benefit test must now be worked out by the Independent Schools Council and the Charity Commission.

Alistair Cooke. General secretary. Independent Schools Council. 35-37 Grosvenor Gardens. London SW1

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