Letter to Independent 15 May 2012
I read with interest your correspondence about that hardy old chestnut, the abolition of British independent schools. As ever the extraordinary diversity of institutions within the sector is ignored. For Ms Pennie all independent schools are the same and the picture selection (almost always of Eton) reflects this. They are all vastly over-subscribed (‘cherry-picked pupils’ according to Mr Warren), accommodated in luxury buildings and taught by an elite of Oxbridge dons on secondment. While those of us running independent schools are grateful for the free marketing provided by the likes of Mr Gove and Ms Pennie the reality is rather different. Most independent schools are not selective, almost all have to be very careful with their budgets and cannot afford the glamorous architecture or salaries associated with many of the new academies and we fish in the same pond for teachers with the majority of our staff having had some experience in the maintained sector.
The relentless focus on smaller class sizes, individual pastoral care, a wide range of co-curricular activities and academic aspiration noted by Mr Jackson marks out many of the ex-direct grant grammar schools that form the core of the Forum for Independent Day Schools. We may not have the glamour of an Eton or a Westminster but we are very keen to share our advantages with less privileged students in our local communities; we take our charitable obligations very seriously with numerous bursaries for children who would otherwise be on free school meals in the maintained sector. One model for the future is to provide state sponsored access to our schools for many more pupils from impoverished backgrounds than we can afford to fund. If the government really is serious about social mobility this would provide a much cheaper and more efficient means to open the gates of privilege than anything currently proposed by the Department for Education.
Mr. A.J.Thould MA,
King Edward VI School,
Southampton SO15 5UQ
Forum for Independent Day Schools.