ISC responds to Sir Michael Wilshaw’s challenges to independent sector

Speaking just after Sir Michael Wilshaw delivered the opening address at The Sunday Times’ Festival of Education, Matthew Burgess, General Secretary of the Independent Schools Council said:

“Sir Michael Wilshaw treated the audience to a typical headline-grabbing stump speech.  In a talk entitled “Raising standards in schools” he rightly praised WellingtonCollege, HighgateSchool and Eton for their commitment to partnership with the state sector but appeared unaware of basic facts relating to the participation of the other 1,220 ISC schools in genuine and meaningful collaborative work with their state sector colleagues.

“In a week when the Education Select Committee heard first-hand evidence from Leo Winkley, Head of St Peter’s School in York, about his school’s wholehearted participation with the City of York Independent State School Partnership (ISSP), Sir Michael appears disappointingly out of touch with the breadth and depth of partnership activity between the sectors.  In York, for example, the ISSP includes ten schools: three independents, five state maintained and two academies. As a result, children across the city now have the opportunity to do Russian and Latin GCSEs, Thinking Skills AS level, leadership and enterprise projects, rowing and access to a whole host of independent school facilities. There are many other examples. 

“Does he not know that more than 90 per cent of all ISC schools are already living up to his challenges of cross-sector professional development, opening up lessons and facilities to pupils outside the independent sector and supporting children aspiring to go to our best universities?

“He should at least be aware of the more than 1,400 schools involved over a dozen years in formal Independent State School Partnerships, a programme sadly discontinued by the current Government, given that the organisation he now leads has twice praised the effectiveness of the collaborative learning opportunities these schemes created.

“His challenge to the sector to eschew educational opportunities overseas in favour of improvement of local schools misses the point. Schools like BrightonCollege, which led the foundation of the London Academy of Excellence which Sir Michael rightly applauds, see growth overseas as an opportunity to build up bursary funds which they otherwise lack, and so improve the life chances of children in their localities.”


Notes for Editors:

  • Over 92% of ISC schools are involved in partnerships with state schools or the wider community
  • 1,126 ISC schools share facilities and expertise with people outside the sector
  • 388 ISC schools open access to pupils from maintained schools to attend lessons or educational events
  • 123 ISC schools help prepare A level pupils at maintained schools for entry to Higher Education
  • 78 ISC schools second teaching staff to maintained schools
  • 34 schools currently sponsor or co-sponsor academies.

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