Private and state schools not allowed to work together, says teachers’ leader

The Guardian is reporting comments from a private school teachers’ leader saying independent day schools are losing the social mix they enjoyed when they were direct grant schools…

…Stephen Smith, secretary of the Forum of Independent Day Schools, told the organisation’s conference on Monday that the social mix that was “cherished” by its members was fast disappearing amid rising fees and government resistance to a fundamentally new role for independent schools.

The coalition government had been especially unwilling to listen to calls from some private schools for a “structural shift” that would enable them to integrate alongside mainstream schools, said Smith, former head of Bedford modern school. He said Michael Gove, the education secretary, had rebuffed their overtures and responded only by inviting schools to become an academy or sponsor one, ignoring the fact that most did not have the resources to do so…

The forum represents not public schools, but independent day schools which were once part funded by government via the direct grant system, but abolished by the Labour education secretary Shirley Williams from 1975 as part of the move towards comprehensive schooling. The 53-strong group argues that, unlike boarding and public schools, its schools have their roots in their local communities and boast a long tradition of boosting social mobility via subsidised or free places for bright children from poor backgrounds…

Smith said the forum’s schools had sought to continue widening access by providing bursary places, but their community role could be greatly increased with a more radical approach involving partnerships with state schools. Comprehensive schools seeking to offer bright pupils separate-subject science teaching but lacking sufficient laboratory facilities might, he suggested, pay a private school to fill that gap. Conversely, an independent school might pay a neighbouring state partner to offer vocational courses for its pupils…

Without the chance to work with the state sector, Smith said, “the danger I see is that we will become educational gated communities. The upper middle classes will be the only ones who can afford to send children to our schools, and the social mix we so cherish will have disappeared, as it is already disappearing.”…

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What do you think of this plea for greater cooperation between independent day schools and the state sector? Do you think the idea of state school buying in specialist teaching or facilities from them could make sense? Please give us your feedback in the comments or via Twitter…

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