Independent schools are not the problem

'Demonised” was the term used to describe hostile propaganda against independent schools, by Dr Christopher Ray, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and High Master of The Manchester Grammar School, in an article last week in The Sunday Telegraph. Sadly, this accusation rings true. Our hugely successful independent-schools sector is too often denounced for creaming off the most talented pupils and failing to contribute to the community to an extent that justifies charitable status. These accusations are unfounded.

In the first place, by their very existence, independent schools relieve the state system and the taxpayer of the burden of educating half a million pupils. Moreover, the genuineness of the independent sector’s commitment to helping disadvantaged but bright children is evidenced by the fact that £54 million in means-tested bursaries was provided by HMC schools in the UK in 2011/2012.

Independent schools routinely have close links with state schools, extending access to sports facilities and generally fostering a spirit of co-operation. Their academic success is impressive: 91.7 per cent of pupils in HMC schools go on to higher education. In Britain today, however, “elitism” is often a pejorative term, even though without an intellectual elite this country will decline to Third World status. Those politicians who criticise the independent-school sector should address themselves instead to the failings of state education. Many parents of independent-school pupils would gladly use the state system, if only it were fit for purpose. Making it so is the challenge that should engage our political leaders.

Click here to read the article © The Telegraph