Chris Ramsey letter to the Guardian in response to Will Hutton: Independent Schools do more to identify and aid talent than any University

In a letter to the Guardian 20/08/14, Chris Ramsey, Co-Chair, HMC/GSA Universities Committee and Headmaster, The King’s School, Chester points out that Independent Schools do more to identify and aid talent than any University.

Sir,

Will Hutton is right to point out that there is still a gap in access to higher education between the most advantaged and the least (‘There is much more still to do to get poor students into higher education, Sunday August 17th).  It is however simplistic to suggest that the answer is to lower fees for a certain sector of society or point the finger at a certain sector of school.

'Private' and 'fee paying' are convenient labels for the independent school sector, but 'independent' is a better one. Schools such as my own offered fee assistance to 166,268 young people with potential last year, 8% of our pupils are on means-tested bursaries, and 5,391 ‘private’ school pupils paid no fees at all last year. Indeed we calculate that our schools provide more in means-tested bursaries per pupil than any university does per undergraduate. Many independent schools do, in other words, precisely the job that Dr Hutton rightly wants done: identifying youngsters of talent, and giving them great education.

The main reason why a wider section of the school population does not go to the top universities is still because they do not apply. Too often they are put off by inverse snobbery, as the Sutton Trust revealed recently, when its research revealed that over 40% of teachers in state schools would not recommend the best universities to their best students.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Ramsey
Headmaster, The King’s School, Chester
Co-Chair, HMC/GSA Universities Committee