Independents aren't in the business of competing with state schools

15th November 2002 at 00:00
I had difficulty in under-standing the motivation behind the front-page article in the TESS, November 1, "State school results reverse pupil exodus".

By all means, let us celebrate the undoubted success of the state schools of East Renfrewshire in improving examination results.

I wish my colleagues in these schools every success in this venture and fine examination results have been a feature of some of the East Renfrewshire schools for many years.

Nothing new here, and nothing new also in the consistently excellent examination results of independent schools.

However, I suspect that this article and similar ones have a political rather than an educational message. Is this not rather out of tune with the co-operative approach we are trying to foster in education and the emphasis by the First Minister on the encouragement of excellence in all schools?

The so-called "exodus" from independent schools to the local authority is certainly not borne out by the statistics from Belmont House, the only independent school in East Renfrewshire. Our school roll has increased by 13 per cent over the last two years and is now at capacity in many areas. Interest and registrations for entry into the academic year 2002-2003 are at an all time high. Not much sign of an exodus here.

The article spoke of "friendly competition" between the sectors and I would echo this. Our strength lies in offering things that, at the moment, the state school cannot do: the personal and intimate school size, the existing maximum class sizes of fewer than 20 pupils throughout, the phasing in of a class size maximum of 16 by 2005, an average class size of 11 pupils in the examination years of S3-S6. We offer parental choice and it was interesting that Alan McGinlay, headteacher of Mearns Castle High, also cited parental choice as a significant factor.

Perhaps it would serve the people of East Renfrewshire better if we could focus on the choices available to parents and the services we all offer, instead of spurious comparisons of intake and academic performance.

Stuart McCulloch

Head, Belmont House School

Newton Mearns

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