Private schools are not “one-trick, very posh, ponies” that are all about “toffs and top hats”, the head of the Independent School Council has said.
Launching its manifesto ahead of May’s general election, Charlotte Vere, acting general secretary of the ISC, said there needed to be an end to “old-fashioned” prejudices when it came to the fee-paying sector.
The manifesto says private schools could do more to improve social mobility by offering extra scholarships to young people with “exceptional academic and sporting talents” and special educational needs.
The ISC says more than 41,000 (8 per cent) of its pupils were in receipt of some kind of bursary, while more than 5,300 pupils paid no fees at all.
The manifesto adds that more than 10 per cent of its students were classed as SEND, while nearly 29 per cent were black and minority ethnic pupils.
The make-up of student bodies meant that private schools could no longer be viewed through old stereotypes, Ms Vere said.
“It is time to throw out old fashioned prejudices about independent schools and bring the debate up to date. Politicians and quangocrats need to stop talking about, and indeed sometimes creating, ‘Berlin Walls’.
"Old fashioned stereotypes about toffs and top hats help no one. Independent schools are not one-trick, very posh, ponies."
Independent schools now are "very diverse, with an extraordinary mix of pupils," Ms Vere added.
"Over 55 per cent of our schools have fewer than 350 pupils, many of whom are from families where both parents work extremely hard so that they can choose an independent education for their children.”
In an opinion piece published on the TES website, ISC chair Barnaby Lenon said social immobility was not caused by the success of independent schools, but by the government's policies.
“It is caused by the failure to lift the educational levels of the weakest 40 per cent of pupils to that achieved in east Asia, by offering qualifications which have little value, by the DfE performance measure five GCSEs A* to C, which capped achievement at C, by poor university and careers advice,” he writes.
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