Increasing numbers of headteachers from independent schools will join the state sector as academy principals, a leading private school head has predicted.
They will be drawn in by the opportunity to have a wider impact on their communities than is possible in private schools, said the Rev Tim Hastie- Smith the chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC).
Mr Hastie-Smith, head of the independent Dean Close School in Cheltenham, is set to make the switch himself next September when he becomes the principal of Kettering Academy. "Many independent school heads would not have thought of doing this before," he said. "But if it works for me, then others could well consider it.
"It is exciting to go in and create a school in often quite challenging circumstances. The principal attraction is to serve in an institution that will become the engine of change for the whole community."
Mr Hastie-Smith said he would be inviting other heads from the HMC, which represents top-ranking schools including Eton College and Winchester College, to visit Kettering Academy to show them what was possible.
He said he was not worried about losing some of the current freedoms he enjoys in the private sector.
"Wherever you work, you are subject to certain constraints, they just manifest themselves in different ways," he said. "The most important thing is being answerable to pupils and parents, and that will stay the same."
Mr Hastie-Smith's move was brokered by Lord Adonis, the schools minister, who introduced him to Sir Ewan Harper, the chief executive of Kettering's academy sponsor, the United Learning Trust.
It is a significant coup for Lord Adonis, who has urged independent schools to become involved in the academies programme.
The United Learning Trust, the largest academy sponsor, has a record of recruiting heads from the independent sector.
Fiona Cordeaux, principal of Walthamstow Academy, was the former head of the independent St Dunstan's College in Lewisham, south-east London, and the Rev Peter Hullah, principal of Northampton Academy, is a former head of Chetham's School of Music in Manchester, also private.
Nick O'Sullivan, the principal of Havelock Academy in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, sponsored by Carphone Warehouse millionaire David Ross, is another to move from an independent school, as the former head of St Columba's College in St Albans, Hertforshire.
However, these moves are contrary to the general shift in the teaching population. Figures released by the Independent Schools Council earlier this year showed that increasing numbers of staff are moving the other way from the state sector into private schools. More new teachers coming out of initial teacher training are also going to private schools.
The HMC annual conference, which begins in London on Monday, will be told that schools do better when they are given more independence from red tape.
Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, will present research analysing both the independent and state sectors. Prof Smithers has also analysed the results in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests.
"It appears that those schools with greater freedoms do better regardless of socio-economic factors," said Mr Hastie-Smith. "Most teachers would agree that giving autonomy and freedom to schools, rather than prescribing what they should do is a good thing."
While independent school heads may be considering moving to the state sector, the tide of classroom teachers appears to be turning the other way.
- Teachers moving from state schools to independent schools:
2008: 2,116; 2007: 1,982
- Teachers moving from independent schools to state schools:
2008: 597; 2007: 598
- Net gain for the independent sector from state schools:
2008: 1,519; 2007: 1,384
- Teachers joining independent schools from initial teacher training courses:
2008: 677; 2007: 593
- Teachers joining independent schools from industry:
2008: 217; 2007: 186
Source: 2008 Independent Schools Council census.