Patrick Tobin letter to the Times:

The Times, 10/12/14, Patrick Tobin, former HMC Chairman (1998) writes in response to calls for all independent schools to sponsor academies.

Is Sir Anthony Seldon right about the need for ‘radical solutions’ if we are to make any progress?

Sir, Sir Anthony Seldon bangs a well-worn drum in preaching to Nicky Morgan that she “needs to provide the means for all independent schools to sponsor academies” (“Build character and you close the class divide”, Opinion, Dec 9). He is on shaky ground; early results suggest that Sir Anthony’s skill in running Wellington College has not produced comparable success for its academy.

Why should it be otherwise? More than 30 years of leading and governing independent schools has not given me generic skills for running schools for less privileged children, even though my first headship was of a school that had been declared closed and had shrunk to near extinction. If today it is a thriving community, two and a half times its former size, its success derives in no way from help given by other independent schools.

Independence means working out your own solutions. One of my governors, the head of another Catholic school, told me that admitting girls would not generate the revenue to pay for the toilets. His school remains single-sex and small, while ours took off.

When, as chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, I was asked to provide a panacea for high standards in the maintained sector, my answer was that they should be freed from local authority control. It is nonsense to urge academies to be independent and then state that their success will depend on sponsorship by independent schools.

Patrick Tobin
(HMC chairman 1998) Wootton, Isle of Wight

© The Times