Larger independent schools will be responsible for 'ensuring the success' of the state schools they sponsor, and will have to bring them to 'good' or 'outstanding' Ofsted ratings within a set time frame, under new government plans.
Today's Green Paper says larger private schools who have the capacity will be asked to sponsor academies, set up free schools or offer a certain proportion of places as fully funded bursaries to those who are unable to pay fees.
The consultation document says that while private schools will not be required to contribute financially they will be expected to make sure the schools they sponsor are successful. And it warns that a failure to contribute could lead a toughening up of the law on charitable status for independent schools.
Recent years have seen a number of top private schools suffer a string of difficulties when trying to improve the academies they sponsor.
Wellington College in Berkshire initially struggled to raise standards at its state academy, Wellington Academy in Wiltshire, and the first headteacher left following a batch of poor GCSE results.
And the Dulwich College in south London stepped down from its role at the troubled Isle of Sheppey Academy in Kent, in January 2013 to make way for the Oasis academy chain after admitting its staff were not equipped to help pupils at the state comprehensive.
These difficulties led to other leading private schools being put off sponsoring academies - despite strong pressure from ministers - because of the potential damage to their reputation in the event of failure.
A school sponsored by a private school would need to be “good or outstanding within a certain number of years” today's Green Papers says, and sponsors “would have responsibility for ensuring its success”.
The government is planning to set 'benchmarks' that schools must meet, depending on their size and capacity to contribute to the state sector. If they cannot meet the benchmarks for involvement in state schools, they could lose the tax breaks that go with charitable status, the Green Paper says.
Suggested ways in which smaller schools could contribute include:
- Providing direct school-to-school support with state schools by providing staff to help share good practice.
- Joining Teaching School Alliances to help teacher development.
- Supporting teaching in minority subjects which state schools struggle to make viable, such as further maths, coding, languages such as Mandarin and Russian, and classics.
- Ensuring their senior leaders become directors of multi-academy trusts, to give strategic steer and leadership and provide experienced staff to be governors.
- Providing greater expertise and access to facilities, for example access to science labs and music, drama and sporting facilities.
- Providing sixth-form scholarships to a proportion of pupils in each year 11 at a local school; assisting with their teaching; or helping them with university applications.
The consultation paper, entitled Schools That Work for Everyone, says: “We propose to set new benchmarks that independent schools are expected to meet, in line with their size and capacity.
“We think it is essential that independent schools deliver these new benchmarks.
"If they do not, we will consider legislation to ensure that those independent schools that do not observe these new benchmarks cannot enjoy the benefits associated with charitable status, and to result in the Charity Commission revising its formal guidance to independent schools on how to meet the public benefit test, putting the new benchmarks on to a statutory footing.”