Placing financial sanctions on independent schools through fiddling with charitable status as suggested by Michael Gove makes no economic sense and would be entirely counter-productive (Comment, 24 February 2017). The contribution of independent schools to the UK, estimated at over £11 billion every year, far outstrips the £150 million they receive in charitable benefits. Most independent schools, already run as not-for-profit organisations, would no longer be able to afford the hundreds of millions spent every year providing free lessons, sports coaching and university entrance advice to state schools. Subsidised places are also likely to be put at risk and some smaller schools in the most economically challenged areas might close, bringing more pupils into the state sector at a time when cash-strapped schools are struggling to cope with ever-increasing pupil numbers. Gove’s argument is also based on a much-loved myth that all families who work hard to send their children to independent schools are part of a champagne-guzzling global elite. The reality is that the majority of pupils at my school are hard-working, dual-income families who take huge exception what they consider to be mindless mythologizing.
Mike Buchanan, Chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and Headmaster of Ashford School