Eton does not need charity

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
Is there not something particularly degrading about the dodges Sir Cyril Taylor suggests independent schools try "if they wish to keep charitable status" - and about pound;100 million per year of public money ("Independents stay", TES, May 13)?

This will be largely for schools that provide a luxury education exclusively for a minority, some of the most privileged children in our society. Why have they not all been doing these things before, if they are really so keen on benefiting the public?

The truth is that schools like Eton, Harrow et al may once have had a charitable function, but that is long gone, and they are now bastions of selection, wealth, privilege - and apartheid.

Many of the ways he suggests which will help are ironically dependent on their wealth - spending pound;50,000 on sponsorship, for example, which several of them seem able to do, though it is still a very small proportion of the millions they spend on their own schools.

Bursaries and scholarships are touted - to help poor children, but only bright ones - like the summer schools and the post-16 partnerships. Nothing for the great majority of the public.

And those bright children sucked out of the state sector, weakening it for all, just might improve the results of the schools they move to. Not much public benefit or altruism here, and no more than businesses do in cost terms to buy goodwill.

Engaging with the local community and arranging sporting links? Don't all schools do this as a matter of course?

This is a gross example of the well-heeled reaching greedily for even more, in this case from the community's funds, conveniently forgetting their "independence". Charitable status for such schools has brought the whole notion of charity into disrepute for years.

Until wealthy independent schools are prepared to take a full part in educating all the nation's children (as a few do), not simply indulging in these peripheral activities, which do not adversely affect the privilege they enjoy, they do not deserve their charitable status.

Tony Mitchell

Vice-chair

Socialist Educational Association

51 Falcon Avenue, Bedford

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