Plan for 10,000 free private school places for low-income pupils

ITV News, 09.12.16, up to 10,000 places at private schools could be offered to children from low-income backgrounds as part of a new initiative between independent schools and the government. HMC Chair Mike Buchanan, Head of Ashford School is quoted.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) says independent teaching establishments will cover extra educational costs as long as the government gives them the £5,550 per pupil the state system costs per child.

The initiative, which would test some children for ability, would cost about £80 million a year.

It comes after Prime Minister Theresa May warned that private schools would have to do more for society if they want to keep their charitable status tax privileges, which saves such establishments £150 million a year.

The proposal by the ISC, which represents 1,300 of the most successful schools in the country, is in response to the government's 'Schools that work for everyone' green paper consultation.

The ISC said the plans "go considerably further" than the ideas suggested by the government.

The three key proposals being made are:

  • The creation of up to 10,000 jointly-funded free school places in independent schools for families who cannot afford fees, which would see the government contributing no more than the cost of a state school place;
  • A plan to help set up new state schools, which would be "co-sponsored" by independent schools;
  • An expansion of the existing relationships and "mutually beneficial collaborative work" that currently exists between independent and state schools. This would see additional teaching, coaching and university and careers advice given to state schools.

ISC Chairman Barnaby Lenon, said: "In its green paper the government recognised the great strength and success of independent schools and asked what more we could do on top of the contribution our schools already make.

"The proposals we are putting forward go considerably further than some of the ideas the green paper suggested and by helping create more good school places, both in state and independent schools, we would be helping to expand real social mobility in this country."

Mike Buchanan, chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, an association of chiefs of leading independent schools, said: "This innovative plan could herald a new era of co-operation between government and independent schools to offer outstanding education to a new generation of children from lower income homes.

"Offering jointly-funded places in independent schools is a high-impact, low-risk idea which will be zero additional cost to the taxpayer.

"Those schools already give free and partly-funded places to thousands of children to try and offer them the best possible start. We want to do more, and hope the government will put pupils before politics and work with us to offer them this life-changing opportunity."

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