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Public schools slate the inverse snobs

Independents accuse prejudiced state heads of snubbing offers to use their facilities. Emily Clark reports.

PREJUDICE is leading state schools to ignore offers to use the facilities of their fee-charging neighbours, independent heads believe.

Nine out of 10 private schools make at least one facility available for outside use but community groups use them twice as much as state schools, a new survey reveals.

Half of all independent schools do not share any facilities with neighbouring state schools. Almost 70 per cent said they have never made their curriculum facilities, such as science laboratories or dance studios, available and half do not open their sports fields to the maintained sector.

Almost 9 per cent of schools which do share their facilities with schools admitted making a profit.

Some private-school heads have accused state schools of prejudice, ideological hang-ups or discourtesy. One said: "We wrote to several maintained schools to offer free use of our sports hall. Offers were ignored or refused."

The accusation features in a Good Neighbours survey, published by the Independent Schools Council. Almost 900 private schools responded to the survey.

Dick Davison, joint director of the ISC, said: "Blind prejudice leading to casual discourtesy seems to be on the decline as people get to know each other. But it is fair to say that sort of attitude still exists although it is probably less prevalent than it was."

Publication of the survey coincides with the Government announcement of a new pound;1.6 million investment in independent-state school partnerships to raise achievment in 47 struggling schools. In the past five years 180 partnerships have helped around 600 state schools and 60,000 pupils.

The survey showed that only 96 schools of the 189 applicants to run partnership schemes were successful, but 13 of the rejected applicants went ahead with suggested projects anyway using private resources.

A quarter of the private schools surveyed had approached their local education authority with a proposal to work more closely together. A third said their contact with the local council was purely formal. Another third described their relationship as "cordial".

At the state-run Gamlingay village college in Cambridgeshire, David Clark, headteacher, denied prejudice was stopping him using facilities at the nearby Kimbolton school in Huntingdon.

Mr Clark's school is in desperate need of swimming facilities since the local pool in Biggleswade, which cost pound;1 per child, ran out of space.

Kimbolton school is the nearest independent with a swimming pool but availability is limited and it costs pound;55 for commercial hire or pound;2 per child.

Mr Clark said: "I have never been approached by an independent school. If one could provide a service for a sensible cost I would consider it.

"There is no chance of my being prejudiced."

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