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Resetting our moral compass

Your editorial "Independents, don't be shy. Let's see the real you" and the article by Lord Adonis ("Charity is their duty, not an optional extra") on 2 November call attention to the core question for private schools today: are they chiefly there to educate the well-off, or for the benefit also of the wider community? You both support the latter.

The leaders of private school associations do not agree. Instead of responding positively to the express plea of the prime minister a year ago for private schools to sponsor academies, they have spurned the idea. They have chosen to trumpet all the things that private schools already do to show their charitable contribution. And there is indeed much excellent work that private schools are doing, paid for by the schools themselves.

The lack of leadership in the private sector is at the heart of our problem. The private sector needs leadership to give us a powerful moral purpose and fresh vision in the 21st century.

Realpolitik is not the only reason for a new vision. We have so much to learn from the vastly improved state sector, as well as much to give. We need our leaders to be lobbying for money to allow us to sponsor academies as well as providing the know-how to allow us to do it. We need to reclaim the moral high ground: currently we are dwelling in a moral no-man's-land.

Sponsoring an academy is a wonderful thing to do. Bringing a state school within the family of the private school will not threaten our independence, but will underpin it. All large and better-endowed private schools could sponsor an academy; medium-sized and smaller ones could embrace the state sector in a whole variety of more meaningful ways than at present.

Anthony Seldon, Headmaster, Wellington College.

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