Academies breaking down barriers

25th July 2008 at 01:00

To say that private schools would stop working with state schools if the Charity Commission doesn't recognise our charitable work does many of us in the independent sector a profound disservice. It is an apparent misunderstanding of current concerns ("Independents threaten to slam gates on state sector," TES, July 18).

There is a growing consensus that it's time to create for all of our children the means to realise their potential and, with that, a need to end the state-private school divide. Unprecedented numbers of independent schools are already working with their state counterparts, while the academies programme and Specialist Schools and Academies Trust status should allow state schools more independence and autonomy. Like many charitable independent schools, The Girls' Day School Trust was founded in the 19th century to respond to inequality - specifically a lack of high-quality educational opportunities for women. Traditionally, trust schools have served students from wide-ranging backgrounds, from our direct grant roots and then the assisted places scheme. Today, this mission continues through our bursaries, and links with state schools and the wider community.

We welcome the principle of the Charity Commission's public benefit guidance. As a charity committed to partnership and access, we embrace opportunities to work cross-sector to benefit all. We will be running two independent academies by 2009: the Belvedere Academy in Liverpool was the first UK independent school to transfer to academy status, opening excellence to the wider community, and our Birkenhead school is set to follow suit.

The academies programme is an opportunity for groundbreaking partnership between the state and independent sectors, a way to overcome barriers from the past.

Barbara Harrison, Chief executive, The Girls' Day School Trust.

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