Schools free of state control

In a letter to the Independent, Dr John Newton, Head of Taunton School, writes in response to Richard Gardner's report about Sir Peter Lampl's "open access" scheme ("Private schools should be open to all", 8 October).

Richard Gardner's report about Sir Peter Lampl's "open access" scheme ("Private schools should be open to all", 8 October) raises more questions than it answers. Sir Peter Lampl has garnered the support of 80 independent schools to participate in his scheme. Many are not selective as the report suggests – but why should a scheme of this nature not be open to all state-school pupils regardless of ability? Independent schools not only make bright children brighter, but also make mediocre children more confident and successful academics.

What Sir Peter seems to be suggesting is nothing less than a school-voucher scheme, in which the Government provides the funding that would normally support a child's education at a state school. This usually falls beneath average independent day fees. However, a combination of a means-tested parental contribution and bursary funding will ensure that the funding gap is plugged; 200,000 pupils are now being educated under such a scheme in the US.

The danger for the Government is not just that many bright children will leave the state sector, but that more children of all abilities will move into the more nimble and expandible independent sector. The economic benefits of putting the funding burden more the way of parents and independent schools will provide an opportunity to reduce the contribution by the state while lifting the life chances of many thousands of pupils.

Academies, comprehensives and free schools are still controlled by the state either centrally or locally. However, state control of education remains the key hindrance to our aspiration of global educational pre-eminence. A voucher or "open access" scheme has every chance of taking us back to where we belong in international league tables, while helping to balance the books.

Dr John H Newton, Headmaster, Taunton School

Click here to read the letter © The Independent