PSPR discussion document on independent schools

In response to a new discussion document about independent schools by the pressure group PSPR, HMC Executive Director Mike Buchanan said:

“We welcome any positive, well-informed discussion about how independent schools can be part of the answer to promoting social mobility.

“However, this report is based on the false assumption that the education of the nation’s children can be significantly improved by penalising or obliterating a tiny part of the system.

“The measures in this report will not enhance state education; it is a biased and flawed analysis that makes over-optimistic claims for speculative reforms whilst ignoring the positive impact that independent schools already have on children across both the state and independent sectors.

“For example, it fails to acknowledge that our schools support high-flying state academies, teach, coach and advise tens of thousands of state school pupils and spend over a million pounds every day on free and discounted places, including for disadvantaged youngsters. Because of their independence, HMC schools have been able to rescue dying academic subjects and pioneer and share best practice across the sectors. All this would be lost.

“Of course HMC heads want to see all pupils getting the same opportunities, but by improving educational standards everywhere, not wrecking beacons of excellence. Any future government should focus on a properly funded and supported state sector, not damage what already works. Together we can continue to pursue excellence for all young people.

“We do agree that more can be done, however, and we have repeatedly offered 10,000 additional, free-to-parent places every year to children from lower income families with the government playing its part by contributing what it would anyway spend if those pupils went to state schools. We are open to discussing practical ways that these places might be allocated and suggest people look at already successful schemes, such as the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation.

“In contrast, the punitive taxation proposed in this report will end up harming, not helping, state schools, and ‘nationalisation’ would be an unacceptable assault on parents’ rights to choose how to educate their children.

“As school heads, we know that a thriving, independent-minded and diverse education system that offers as much choice to parents as possible is the answer – not a monolithic system entirely controlled by the government and distrusted by parents.”