As heads of leading independent schools within HMC we are most surprised to discover that yet again, our schools are “in crisis”. (News, 6.2.15) In fact, there are a record number of pupils at independent schools and, overall, our exam results remain unparalleled. Nationally, nearly a third of our pupils receive A or A*s at GCSE compared with just 7% in state schools and half of independent school A Level entries are awarded A or A*.
Commentators often bemoan the fact that independent schools are so good that our pupils dominate the most successful universities and careers. How can this be when we are busy failing and going out of business?
The answer lies in the fact that the current debate is based on partial use of statistics combined with a large dose of wishful thinking. In truth, a relatively small number of state schools are improving, but not consistently. Free schools, for example, are vaunted as a huge success story. However, recently trumpeted figures from the New Schools Network rely on just 877 A-level candidates in mainly highly selective free schools, compared to the 52,000 in independent schools who, across the board, achieve outstanding university entrance results each year. Meanwhile, one third of all free school A level candidates are studying in very successful institutions founded and supported by HMC schools.
Clearly the economy plays a strong role in parental choice and HMC schools are working hard to keep fees as low as possible, especially in less prosperous areas. This variety of choice combined with innovation and consistency of quality is another key strength of the independent sector generally and HMC schools in particular. Perhaps this is why more parents than ever are choosing them.
Chris King, Chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference and Headmaster, Leicester Grammar School