Critics take aim at subsidies given to private schools

It is hard to imagine a more exclusive chain of prep schools than the one that has been entrusted with the education of the third-in-line to the throne. That privilege has been bestowed on Thomas’s, a group of four London public-school feeders, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have chosen to send Prince George. The Guardian reports

So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that its sister school Thomas’s, Kensington, has recently benefited from a share of a £175,000 state handout.

Under a Department for Education scheme, approved in 2014, Thomas’s in Kensington was given £4,000 a year to pay for one of its teachers to teach Latin to pupils from two state primary schools once a week. One of the stated benefits of the programme was to put local state children on an even footing with prep school pupils applying for places at private secondary schools.

Thomas’s was one of 15 independent schools, including Merchant Taylors’ (Mandarin and maths lessons), King’s School Canterbury (science) and Shrewsbury School (coding), taking part in a programme to “raise the standard of teaching and learning in key subject areas in state schools”.

As charities, Thomas’s and the other participating schools are under a legal duty to make a contribution to the community. Yet the state, through a number of government departments, pays private schools, including some of the best known and wealthiest in the country, more than £200m a year.

The Foreign Office runs a similar scheme for diplomats. A parliamentary question answered in November last year revealed that £27m of taxpayers’ money was spent on the school fees of diplomats’ children in 2017. Sevenoaks School in Kent alone received almost £500,000

Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, who asked the Commons question, says: “At a time when per-pupil funding for state secondary schools is stuck at just over £6,000 per year, and headteachers are having to send begging letters to parents to buy basic supplies, it seems extraordinary that the Foreign Office is funding the private education of its staff’s children to the tune of more than £30,000 per pupil every year. That level of subsidy is hard to justify at a time when the ordinary schools budget is under such pressure.”

Robert Halfon, the chairman of the House of Commons education select committee and a former pupil of Highgate School in north London understands the resentment taxpayers might feel towards subsidising fee-paying schools. He says: “If private schools gave more genuinely disadvantaged children the chance of a public-school education then people wouldn’t mind arrangements where the state pays fees of some middle-class children,” he says.

Read the full article Critics take aim at subsidies given to private schools

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