Leading headmaster attacks ‘mediocre’ state schools

State schools have been allowed to descend into “mediocrity” because of the entrenched attitudes of the educational establishment, a leading private school headmaster warns. This is from the Telegraph

Christopher Ray, vice-chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference of leading independent schools, says too many state school teachers “do not fully understand the word ‘aspiration’” and fail to prioritise rigorous subjects.

Writing in the Telegraph today, he also launches a staunch defence of fee-paying schools, insisting they have been the victim of “persistent misrepresentation” from politicians and teaching unions.

Too many independent schools are dismissed as bastions of a wealthy elite despite the fact that the majority of parents are on incomes of less than £60,000, he claims.

The comments come as headmasters across the UK prepare to gather in London on Monday for the annual meeting of HMC, which represents 250 major schools including Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Westminster and Charterhouse.

His article points to deepening tensions between the state and independent sectors despite attempts by successive governments to convince private school heads to sponsor and run taxpayer-funded academies.

Earlier this year, Lord Adonis, the former Labour cabinet minister, said all independent schools should get involved with the academies programme because the fee-paying sector was becoming “entirely divorced” from the rest of society.

But Dr Ray, former High Master of Manchester Grammar School, who recently took over as head of The British School, Abu Dhabi, claims that the views seek to divert attention from the true failings of the state education system.

“The reasons for the imbalance between the sectors will not be found in the excellence of the independent sector, but in the blinkered, entrenched and dogmatic attitudes that have allowed mediocrity to rule state education,” he says.

In an outspoken attack, he criticises the failure to reintroduce academic selection into the state system following the widespread closure of state grammar schools in the 60s and 70s.

Dr Ray highlights the “modern-day addiction to target-setting” which has seen state schools focus on boosting the number of students with average C grades to climb league tables.

“The impact on state schools has been massive: it often means that the needs of both the most and the least able are neglected,” he says…

More at:  Leading headmaster attacks ‘mediocre’ state schools

Your reaction to Dr Ray’s reported comments? Any merit in the criticisms he makes? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Policy and Private Schools.


  1. Philip_Britton

    SchoolsImprove collaborations such as between SmithillsSchool and BoltonSchool help raise aspiration and help understand issues involved

  2. penguin_charl

    SchoolsImprove I’ve taught in 2 private (int) schools & 2 state (UK) – quality of teaching/learning was better in the state schools, ime.

  3. inwte

    SchoolsImprove so when is he going to move to a state school and show us how it is done? He could show us all how to teach as well!

  4. guest

    I work in an average state school, my step daughter is at an average private school. I am 95% sure she would get better grades in state system

  5. ProfDanielMuijs

    SchoolsImprove And where is the evidence that private schools do better in value-added terms? Intake can hide plenty of mediocrity.

  6. pannusf10

    SchoolsImprove Who cares what private school heads think? They’d do better to discuss the eating disorders & drug problems in their schools

  7. PompeyDog

    SchoolsImprove Dr Ray really is clever… He knows all this despite having spent his career teaching privileged children in private schools

  8. DrDawnie

    pannusf10 SchoolsImprove Is this a *serious* response? How will reactions like this improve situation? Are we the grown-ups or the kids?

  9. pannusf10

    Earth_Sheep_Ben DrDawnie SchoolsImprove not totally serious no. But like most pure sarcasm there is a kernel of truth there.

  10. pannusf10

    Earth_Sheep_Ben DrDawnie SchoolsImprove I am a parent, ex-teacher who is inc fed-up the Gove-led glorification of private schools.

  11. Earth_Sheep_Ben

    pannusf10 My friends and I work in different sector schools.. We ALL have the misfortune of these issues. DrDawnie SchoolsImprove

  12. pannusf10

    Earth_Sheep_Ben DrDawnie SchoolsImprove I am sick of private school Heads knocking state schools down. They’re not without problems.

  13. pannusf10

    Earth_Sheep_Ben DrDawnie SchoolsImprove I am sick of private school Heads knocking state schools down. They’re not without problems.

  14. DrDawnie

    pannusf10 Earth_Sheep_Ben SchoolsImprove But is that the claim? And is attacking students with mental health/addiction issues sensible?

  15. DrDawnie

    pannusf10 Earth_Sheep_Ben SchoolsImprove Invite an attacker in. Show them good stuff. Reduce ‘divide’, don’t mud sling.

  16. pannusf10

    DrDawnie Earth_Sheep_Ben SchoolsImprove I wasn’t attacking any such thing. That is a ridiculous overwrought extrapolation. It was sarcasm

  17. DrDawnie

    pannusf10 Earth_Sheep_Ben SchoolsImprove (1) I am not overwrought (2) Sarcasm directed at students, not teachers or systems.

  18. pannusf10

    DrDawnie Earth_Sheep_Ben SchoolsImprove I didn’t say you’re overwrought it was adjectival use. I was not repeat not sarcastic to students

  19. DrDawnie

    pannusf10 Earth_Sheep_Ben SchoolsImprove Owing to the distasteful, reductive & divisive implications of your original tweet, I responded.

  20. Earth_Sheep_Ben

    DrDawnie pannusf10 Dawn don’t bother.. We all can see who is the child around here.. And please don’t even bother replying Suzy!

  21. JaneCo94

    SchoolsImprove In agreement with much of this. Evidence of local school indie to acad. In ~3 yrs less than mediocre.

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