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State / Independent partnerships – again! – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 13th January 2016 -Ballard School

January 13, 2016
Ballard School Headmaster and pupils

State / Independent partnerships – again!

For as long as I can remember – and I have been involved in independent education for over 40 years – the debate has raged over how much the private sector should open up its resources and access to the public sector. Whilst this was clearly a significant bone of contention from the 1960s as so-called ‘privilege’ came under attack, independent schools (and their local maintained ones) have generally moved on dramatically since then so that today independent / state partnerships are common place. It is thus with a sense of frustration that we see the Daily Telegraph reporting recently as follows under the heading

‘Corbyn’s public school facilities plan’:

The Labour party is calling for public schools to be forced to open up their music, arts and drama departments to state school children. Measures put forward would also see independent schools expected to offer state school pupils career advice and help finding work experience placements and a university place. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said the proposals “betrayed the Labour Party’s prejudiced and outdated assumption” against public schools. Anna Turley, Labour’s shadow charities minister, who attended Ashford Girls School in Kent on an academic scholarship, said: “I felt very heavily, and it still weighs on my mind now, the privilege that I had. There is no doubt at all the evidence over the years has shown, the private school education sets people up in terms of confidence.” Liberal Democrat shadow education spokesman John Pugh said sharing resources is “something many in the sector do now, and will continue to do in the years ahead.” Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), said 93% of public schools were already engaged in tie-ups with state schools, adding that the proposed move could “undermine the thousands of existing partnerships.” The changes have been tabled in a series of amendments to the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill which will be considered by MPs.

ISC’s website -‘Schools Together’

The ISC has just launched a website called ‘Schools Together’ which demonstrates powerfully that what Mr Corbyn and others are calling for is already a reality. As I have argued before in this blog, by forcing independent schools to undertake certain ventures could prove very detrimental to relationships between schools and, moreover, takes no account of the fact that some private schools are not richly resourced. Moreover, all of these initiatives regularly neglect to consider that parents with children in private schools are paying twice for education (through their taxes and through their pockets). Choice is a key value in our society – witness the number of supermarkets and the variety of holiday options – and I struggle to understand why time and again this fundamental right to choose a place of schooling should be under attack so often. I do, of course, understand the concerns about elitism and privilege but would point out that a large proportion of independently educated students involve themselves in public service, charitable work and employment creating jobs for others. Moreover, the significant increase in scholarships and bursaries as well as the opening up of facilities to the community and multiple state /private school partnerships (we have four), have gone a long way to break down old divisions. A link on our website demonstrates some of the areas of ‘public benefit’ with which Ballard is involved.

Head’s conclusion

I would simply conclude by saying that just last week I was contacted by a local state school Head to suggest that he, I and another maintained school principal had an informal lunch together each term to discuss matters of common interest – of which there are many. I readily agreed!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

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