State schools don’t need the private sector’s advice

Writing in the Observer, Teach First’s Sam Freedman says Tristram Hunt is right to look at their tax breaks but wrong to think that partnerships with the private sector are necessarily the way to help state schools…

…There are a number of high-quality partnerships between the sectors, and these would happen regardless of financial incentives, because they are mutually beneficial. But there is no reason whatsoever to believe that all private schools have valuable wisdom to bestow upon their less fortunate state colleagues.

A simple comparison of results shows private schools far ahead – twice as many Etonians get into Oxbridge every year than from among the entire cohort of 80,000 receiving free school meals – but this is because their pupils tend to be doing much better when they start school…

Jon Coles, the chief executive of United Learning, which runs both private and state schools, wrote earlier in the year: “The truth is that not all that many of our independent school heads would be great heads of challenging academies.” He quoted one of his private school heads: “I take my hat off to these guys who run academies. I wouldn’t last five minutes in that environment.”

…The quality of teaching and leadership I’ve seen in our best inner-city state schools, such as Westminster academy and Mulberry school in Tower Hamlets – is world class and would, frankly, be wasted in the private sector.

Indeed, the real story of the past decade is the improvement we’ve seen in comprehensive schools, particularly in inner-city London and Birmingham. Children from the poorest 10% in these areas are now doing as well as the national average for all pupils.

The reasons for this improvement are multiple and complex but certainly include a sharp increase in the quality of leadership, better parental engagement and the rising status of teaching as a profession. On this last point, my employer, Teach First, has recruited more than 6,000 top graduates into teaching in disadvantaged communities…

…both the current government, through its exhortations to the private sector to become academy sponsors, and Labour through these latest proposals have continued to give the impression that if only private schools could be made available to all, our educational problems would be solved.

Instead, all parties should focus on consolidating recent successes in the state sector and working out how best to spread these improvements across the country.

One way to help achieve this would be to simply end private schools’ tax relief and give the proceeds to the state sector..The money will likely be a lot more use than the advice…

More at: State schools don’t need the private sector’s advice


Your thoughts on @Samfr‘s arguments? It certainly struck me that the strangest thing about Tristram Hunt’s new proposals for private schools was the apparent underlying assumption that private schools are inherently better than those in the state sector and therefore forcing them to help out will make all the difference…


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Categories: Policy and Private Schools.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove I would say is that without the tax breaks a number of private schools would close. Whether that’s good/bad is another issue

  2. Nor_edu

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Samfr agree! It really depends what the desired outcomes are – getting all students into Oxbridge?

  3. andrew_1910

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Well we’d have find state places for kids. Don’t think anyone’s added up figs.

  4. andylutwyche

    andrew_1910 SchoolsImprove Absolutely – a typical politician making a populist soundbite without considering the possible consequences

  5. andrew_1910

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove ie parents pay taxes for schs, then take kids out of system. So there’s subsidy that way & tax sub the other.

  6. andylutwyche

    h_emoney SchoolsImprove Ideologically fair enough. Very expensive though as those extra thousands of place now state funded

  7. andylutwyche

    andrew_1910 SchoolsImprove Absolutely right – a double loss to the system financially if private schools don’t exist

  8. andylutwyche

    h_emoney SchoolsImprove Currently some parents paying taxes for state schools but not taking up place. Without private schools: big £ loss

  9. andylutwyche

    h_emoney SchoolsImprove The tax avoiders are very difficult to pin down otherwise one would hope that they’d have done it already

  10. andylutwyche

    h_emoney SchoolsImprove Agreed – politicians seem reluctant to close these loopholes for some reason. People very good at finding them

  11. Janet2

    ISC is fighting back.  Claims independent schools contribute £9.5b to GDP.  Also claims GDP benefits by an extra £1b because of the ‘high academic performance of ISC pupils.

    Given there are far more pupils in state schools and state-educated high achievers have the same ‘high academic performance’, then it would be interesting to know how GDP benefits from state educated pupils who reach this standard.

    Or, indeed, the value to GDP of those who don’t reach a high academic standard  considering everyone in work (however lowly) contributes to the total value of the goods produced and services provided in the UK.

    Perhaps that last ISC claim is one of those statistics which sounds good but doesn’t actually mean much.

  12. Janet2

    @andylutwyche SchoolsImprove But according to ISC. they PAY £3.6b in tax.

  13. Janet2

    @andylutwyche h_emoney SchoolsImprove ISC says its schools educate 500,000 pupils.  Many are from abroad.  If the schools became state-funded (and I’m not saying they should), the buildings, staff etc are already there.  Could cause oversupply of places in some areas, though.  And parents would still have to pay for boarding.

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