Excuses? We’re doing our bit, say independents

In a letter to the TES, 11/10/12,  HMC's General Secretary, Dr William Richardson responds to Gerard Kelly's editorial attacking independents over their ties with state schools.

Gerard Kelly’s editorials are always entertaining.  But when he reaches for his blunderbuss, the grapeshot flies indiscriminately. 

Last week he took leading independent schools to task over the work they do for public benefit. ‘Meaningful ties with state schools’, we learn, are only those that involve academy sponsorship.  As such, reasons for pursuing ‘other types of partnerships’ are ‘fast becoming unsustainable excuses’.   Thus, he stands revealed as a true apostle of Lord Adonis.  And with the good lord, he shows the same misunderstanding of the main point of having independent schools. 

HMC is proud of its members whose schools have sponsored an academy.  But it is no less proud of other work of central importance to the public good – schools that have ensured the continuance of youth orchestras, those that are pivotal to competitive sport in their community, those that have helped to keep STEM and language work alive in neighbouring community schools and those (as Lord Adonis has movingly recounted from personal experience) that offer the vulnerable child a life-changing experience in a safe and enriching boarding environment.   As it is bound to do in law, each governing body separately considers how best it can promote education beyond its own gates. 

Contrary to the claim of Lord Adonis in his recent book, the English state is not an essentially benign presence in education.  As the pages of the TES show every week, its addiction to micro-managing schools demonstrates repeatedly its lack of competence.  Gerard Kelly rightly says that ‘most independents are bloody good schools’.  As the Clinton White House might have said: ‘It’s the Independence, stupid’.

Dr William Richardson

General Secretary, Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference 

Click here to read the article first published in a slightly reduced form - © TES, 11/10/12