‘Full-scale’ inquiry needed into state education, says private school head

The TES is reporting that Richard Cairns, headmaster of a leading independent school, is calling for a ‘full-scale’ inquiry into the state education system, which he says is ‘simply not good enough’.

Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College – where places cost more than £35,000 a year – is expected to give a speech at his own conference criticising the government’s performance over state schools, and will urge the independent sector to lead the call for a full inquiry into the state system.

The speech is likely to go down very poorly among his state school peers, who are being forced to contend with the heaviest budget cuts since the 1970s, and a teacher recruitment crisis while managing a complete overhaul of the curriculum and assessment system.

In a speech on the subject of leadership, the head will highlight the importance of leading on issues “beyond our own schools”, including the “failure” of the wider state school system.

“We know that the education system in our country is simply not good enough. We know that too many young people are leaving school without even the most basic skills,” he will say. “We know that our exam system suffocates creativity and intellectual curiosity. We know that, yes, there has been excessive grade inflation….

“And, privately, we all know that independent schools are the quiet beneficiaries of every failure in the school system. But for the sake of all the nation’s children, we do need to speak out and put their interests above our own narrow self-interest.”

More at: Government must launch a royal commission into ‘failing’ state system, says private school head

What do you think? Are our state schools not good enough? And it is time for a ‘full-scale’ inquiry into state education?

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Categories: 1st POST, Local authorities and Private Schools.


  1. JudithBosavern

    SchoolsImprove Yawn. This doesn’t rate a reasoned reply – but could private schools be feeling at all defensive ?

  2. hoody_red

    SchoolsImprove er why would a private school head be qualified to pontificate re state education ???

  3. HelenSalmon2

    SchoolsImprove bit rich- given the pressures faced by state schools- funding, political interference, increasing levels of poverty.

  4. bentleykarl

    SchoolsImprove Maybe if private schools had to put up with the same inept political interference?

  5. Richard Cairns is both wrong and right.  He’s wrong to say state education in England is failing – the OECD found said in 2010 that UK state schools outperformed UK private schools when socio-economic background was taken into consideration.  Even the recent much-publicised comparison of a few ISC schools (55% of which are selective) with the entire state sector found attending one of the select ISC schools only increased performance by an estimated 0.64 of a GCSE grade (and the researchers admitted they may have overestimated this advantage because of other causal influences they hadn’t taken into account  http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2016/02/the-jury-is-still-out-on-whether-going-to-private-schools-enhance-academic-achievements-say-researchers).  And it’s a bit rich to censure state schools for low performance among some groups when it’s highly unlikely any ISC school would ever have to teach them.
    But he’s right to say the exam system is having a profound negative impact on English state education.  Funding, too, is inadequate.  For that reason he’s not alone in asking for a Royal Commission  http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2016/04/time-for-a-game-changer-call-for-a-royal-commission.
    However, a Royal Commission can be set up by issuing to the Commissioners a Royal Warrant by the Sovereign, through the relevant Secretary of State.  It’s highly unlikely Nicky Morgan would sanction such a move.

  6. gov2

    Oh look,

    Prep School (8+ to 10+)
    Admission to all year groups is on the basis of assessments in Maths, English and Verbal Reasoning.
    The College (11+)
    Admission is on the basis of assessment in Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning, alongside a short interview.
    The College (13+)
    Entry into Year 9 is either through the Common Entrance (CE) or Academic Scholarship examination in the June of the year of entry, or, for pupils who do not attend a CE school, through the Brighton College entry assessments.

    The College (16+)
    Admission to our Sixth Form is on the basis of interviews with senior teachers, alongside assessments in Verbal Reasoning, English and Maths and a General paper assessing aptitudes in scientific reasoning, logic and writing.  Results from assessments and interviews will be considered alongside a confidential reference and predicted GCSE grades

    So obviously an expert on state education.  Much like Nicky Morgan.

  7. Mardy Moo

    Totally agree. Standards are rising.Take the politics out of state education. The changes that have hit state education this last year alone have left it in crisis-all politically led. Let us do our job!

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