Editor's comment

9th October 2009 at 01:00

At face value, Glasgow City Council's blueprint for a closer working relationship with independent schools in the city has obvious attractions. A cash-strapped education department could avail itself of the Advanced Higher classes being run in independent schools, while the independent schools could demonstrate to the charities' regulator that they constitute a "public benefit".

Scratch below the surface, and a more complex picture appears. True, collaboration has increased between the two sectors in recent years, but this has largely evolved through personal relationships. There appears to be no great appetite among the headteachers of either sector for a more formal agreement. Some independent schools see no need to create closer ties with their local authority neighbours, while others say they would relish the chance to become more involved in the community around them. Privately, some heads worry about how parents might react to their sons and daughters being taught an Advanced Higher alongside a pupil from a local authority school who is not paying fees.

The authority schools want to remain full comprehensives, offering all of the curriculum up to S6. They accept there may be occasions, particularly in low uptake subjects, where they have to find another school for a pupil to take a course, but they do not want that to be the norm. Would an independent school be as willing to teach an Advanced Higher to a borderline pupil as they would?

Both sectors want the best for their pupils, but sometimes go about it differently. Glasgow City Council's leader, Steven Purcell, has deliberately courted the heads of the city's independent schools to enlist their support. He acknowledges that this educational partnership has grown from the bottom up, but he should be wary of pushing too hard to formalise what is still a tentative relationship on both sides.

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