Leading headmaster blasts MPs who go to private schools… and then criticise them

Daily Mail, 29/09/14, private schools are under attack from the ‘politics of envy’ and ‘class war dinosaurs’, a leading headmaster warns today.

  • Uppingham Head Richard Harman will defend private schools today
  • Speaking at Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference
  • Harman is chairman of the conference, representing 260 private schools 
  • Will claim private schools being made ‘scapegoats’ for society’s problems
  • Will say many in power ‘embarrassed’ to be seen talking to school heads
  • Around 7 per cent of the UK population is privately educated
  • But in Westminster, this figure is much higher, even for labour MPs 

Private schools are under attack from the ‘politics of envy’ and ‘class war dinosaurs’, a leading headmaster warns today.

Richard Harman will lambast the hypocrisy of critics who ‘lecture’ top fee-paying schools even though they benefited from a private education themselves or chose one for their children.

In a keynote speech, he will claim that private schools are being made ‘scapegoats’ for society’s problems instead of recognised for the ‘general good’ they do.

He will argue that many of those in power are ‘embarrassed’ to be seen talking to independent school heads, preferring to threaten them with more state control or the loss of their historic charitable status.

Mr Harman, head of £32,850-a-year Uppingham School and chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, representing 260 top private schools, will use his speech today to respond to attacks on private education.

It follows claims from Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw that private schools are ‘bastions of privilege’ which should do more to justify their charitable status and tax breaks.

Addressing HMC’s annual conference in South Wales, Mr Harman will tell critics: ‘It is time to stop scapegoating and start celebrating our schools and their contribution. Stop using them as lazy shorthand for the social ills of our country.’ He will say that making school type ‘a proxy for advantage’ does little apart from stirring up ‘the politics of envy’.

Referring to the fact that many of those in power were privately educated, he will say: ‘Don’t lecture us... especially when many of you who do so, have yourselves benefited from or use the service we provide. Hypocrisy is out of tune with the times.’

Around 7 per cent of the UK population is privately educated but in Westminster this figure is much higher. A 2010 study showed 54 per cent of Tory MPs went to a fee paying school, as well as 40 per cent of Lib Dems and 15 per cent of Labour MPs.

Independent schools have ‘centuries of expertise to offer’, Mr Harman will say but ‘too often those in power are embarrassed to be seen talking with us, preferring instead to threaten us with the loss of charitable status or more state control.

‘Contrary to what some dinosaurs from the class war era would have you believe, we are not a drain on national resources; we add significant value to UK plc.’

Mr Harman will also point out that private schools are now more ethnically diverse than state schools and have forged many links with the state sector.

‘When it comes to social mobility we are part of the solution, not the root of the problem,’ he will say.

Mixed-sex schools are the best way for children to be taught, according to Sir Michael Wilshaw.

He said that a mixed-school setting is far more ‘congenial’ and prepares children for work: ‘Girls and boys mix socially in the workplace. They should be educated together too.’

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