Public school head attacks Labour old boy

The Times, 26/11/14, the headmaster of Tristram Hunt’s alma mater has accused the shadow education secretary of bigotry for his attack on independent schools. HMC Chairman, Richard Harman, Headmaster of Uppingham School is quoted.

Mark Beard, head of University College School (UCS), a north London boys’ school, said that Labour’s plans could increase fees, turning private schools into bastions of the super- wealthy. Fee-charging schools had been “in for a bashing” in recent months, he said, and questioned whether Labour would turn next on those with private healthcare schemes.

He told The Times: “There are potential inequalities remaining in our society and it’s for the state to make that work better for more people. It’s difficult for the sector that represents 7 per cent of the population to help the remaining 93 per cent.

Mr Hunt said that if Labour won the general election, fee-charging schools would lose business rate relief worth £700 million over the next parliament. He said: “The next government will say to them: step up and play your part. Earn your keep. Because the time you could expect something for nothing is over.”

Mr Beard said that if charitable status were removed from independent schools, fees would rise and they would become bastions of privilege. The government should give more resources to state school teachers.

He added: “If the shadow education secretary were to visit his old school, what would he find? A diverse pupil population with £1 million per annum granted for fee assistance, the vast majority for 100 per cent bursaries; a range of collaborations with three academies and a number of state primary schools; myriad community service projects and charitable endeavours, with tens of thousands of pounds annually being raised.

“The value of public benefit that UCS generates each year far outstrips the value of tax relief that it receives through its charitable status.”

He added: “Remove charitable status and he removes any pretence of encouraging those schools to play their part in society. Isn’t it time for Labour to come up with some new, helpful initiatives rather than espousing what some might deem an offensive bigotry?”

Mr Hunt also insisted that independent schools should play sporting fixtures against local state schools.

Richard Harman, head of the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference, said that Mr Hunt’s comments were unhelpful, adding: “He should be talking and helping us work together to share best practice.”

Mr Harman’s school, Uppingham, in Rutland, has a partnership with an academy trust and runs projects such as a teaching exchange, coaching for Oxbridge candidates from state schools, sports and extra-curricular activities.

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