Private-school piece divides opinion

25th September 2009 at 01:00

Auriol Stevens' comment article ("Private schools simply can't have it all", September 11) is so full of inaccuracies and prejudice that it is hard to know where to start.

First, Ms Stevens dismisses ISC's research on social diversity in independent schools. Short of interviewing every pupil, postcode analysis is recognised by market researchers as one of the most sophisticated research tools available. It allows us to look at social backgrounds down to groups of around 16 houses. Yes, there are some lovely houses in Hackney and Tower Hamlets. But they will not be grouped in the same postcodes as houses in deprived parts of the boroughs.

Second, on the Charity Commission, Ms Stevens refers to "abuse being heaped on Dame Suzi Leather", implying that ISC was part of that campaign. I challenge her to provide any evidence that ISC has been anything other than scrupulous in keeping personalities out of the debate.

Third, Ms Stevens talks about the need to balance public benefit against harm. If she reads the Charity Commission's reports she will see that they concluded that there is no harm or disbenefit from the operations of the schools concerned. Indeed, the commission's recommendation that independent schools should offer more means-tested bursaries to children from deprived backgrounds suggests it believes that taking these pupils out of the maintained sector is a positive move.

Finally, Ms Stevens anticipates the commisssion's assessment of the major public schools - clearly the schools that upset her most. The irony is, under the commission's tests, these are the ones most likely to sail through as they have the resources to give large numbers of means-tested bursaries. It is the small schools that will suffer most.

David Lyscom, Chief executive, ISC.

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