Forming a partnership may save the day for fee-chargers
Wellington College, the pound;27,000-a-year public school, is to host summer schools for gifted pupils from local comprehensives from next year, it emerged this week.
The move may be key to helping the college, led by master and TES columnist Anthony Seldon, to fulfil the remit of outreach work demanded of private schools by the Charity Commission.
GCSE pupils from four state secondaries will travel to the Berkshire school for four days to receive lessons in biology, chemistry, physics or maths.
The news comes two months after other leading independents, including Eton College, signed up to the Government's IndependentState School Partnerships, which aim to build bridges between the public and private sectors.
Wellington's partnership plans also include annual "enrichment camps" in the autumn half-term, in which year 9 pupils will spend four days at the school studying a range of subjects, including languages and architecture. The stated aim is to raise aspirations among all gifted and talented pupils in the area, with Wellington's imposing surroundings giving them a sense of what life is like at ancient universities.
The project has been welcomed by the state schools involved, whose staff will join their Wellington counterparts in teaching.
Jerry Oddie, chairman of the Surrey Heath Area Partnership for Education (Shape), a group of four state schools in the Camberley area of Surrey, said: "We have a lot of very able students, and we are very conscious that parents aspire to push them to experience an elite academic education.
"Although we have high aspirations for all our pupils, we cannot provide the sort of residential experience that Wellington can lay on, so we are very excited."
The three-year partnership is funded with a pound;75,000 government grant. Dr Seldon said: "It is no longer acceptable for independent schools to operate entirely on their own. My sense is that the great majority of us are now engaged in meaningful partnerships, not just hiring out your swimming pool or playing fields, but in arrangements where your pupils are interacting, and your teachers are interacting.
"I think that these partnerships, and independent schools working with academies, are the way forward now, rather than bursaries.
"Bursaries are driving the two sectors apart. They take the best (pupils) from the state sector, so you are sending a message to it that it is not, somehow, good enough."
Another 22 partnerships, involving Eton, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Perse Girls' schools - begin this year at a cost of pound;4 million.