How the 'feckless' could ride on Eton's coat-tails

7th May 2010 at 01:00
Eton's head suggests sponsorship of state-funded boarding academy to reach deprived pupils

Eton College is considering sponsoring a boarding academy in a bid to help some of the country's most disadvantaged children, the headmaster of the country's most famous private school has revealed.

Tony Little said his school, and others like it, had "experience, expertise and a compelling philosophy to share" in helping to establish a new generation of independently run state boarding academies.

Mr Little said more state boarding schools could "open up access to an educational sector of world class to those who need most help". He told The TES that Eton would be "happy to be involved in what we know", talking about sponsorship of a boarding academy, rather than a day school.

"Sponsoring a state boarding school, we would consider that," he said. "We would certainly be involved with one."

The comments mark a significant shift for the elite public school, which has previously rebuffed attempts by ministers to get them involved in the academies programme. If Eton follows through with its sponsorship it will join a number of other top public schools already involved in the scheme, including Dulwich College and Wellington College (see box, right).

Mr Little told the Boarding Schools' Association heads conference in Torquay this week: "As a nation we cannot afford not to find new ways to develop our young people, from the determined and ambitious to the feckless and the disengaged. Boarding schools change lives for the better.

"Any government serious about education must seriously take advantage of what boarding schools have to offer," he said.

He added: "The genius of good boarding schools is that they offer an answer to contemporary concerns about social cohesion and even the `broken society'."

Mr Little also called for a new assisted places scheme - where the government pays for pupils to attend independent schools - but "focused squarely on boarding".

Mr Little told The TES the further development of state boarding, which has been supported by Labour and the Conservatives, was still "fragile and tremulous" and risked "ending up on the editing room floor" once it came to budgetary decision making.

He also expressed concern that state boarding initiatives had to be "devoid of historical class prejudice" and achieve a social mix. It would be wrong, he said, to group too many pupils from troubled backgrounds together, for fear of creating a "borstal".

Eton College already offers support programmes to local state schools and aims to raise pound;50 million to subsidise the pound;29,000 fees for a third of its pupils.

The headmaster's expression of interest in academies comes after the Conservatives announced they would put "rocket boosters" under the programme and "significantly increase" the numbers of looked after children benefiting from a boarding school education.

Lead sponsors

  • Dulwich College, south London: Isle of Sheppey Academy, Kent.
  • The Skinners' School, Tunbridge Wells: The Skinners' Kent Academy, Tunbridge Wells.
  • Wellington College, Crowthorne: Wellington Academy, Tidworth, Wiltshire.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now