Statement from Richard Harman, Headmaster of Uppingham School, Chairman of HMC, representing the UK’s leading independent schools
‘This new report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission recognises that many talented and successful people working in the UK attended independent schools. The OECD acknowledges that our schools are among the best in the world so their former pupils should be expected to do well. It is unreasonable and unfair of Alan Milburn to suggest that a high number of people in positions of influence are there simply because they attended independent schools. This is lazy stereotyping and under-estimates the diversity within the sector.
‘In his own 2012 report (University Challenge: How Higher Education can Advance Social Mobility) Mr Milburn said that the kind of school a young person attends is “a blunt instrument” for drawing conclusions about social disadvantage because “some pupils who attend private schools come from poor backgrounds, while many wealthy people attend state schools”.
‘Not only do the exam results from independent schools regularly demonstrate students’ high academic achievement, but, crucially, our schools identify pupils’ talents, develop character and creativity and encourage individuality. This is the very opposite of what Alan Milburn describes as ‘group think’.
‘Social mobility is a complex issue, of concern to all of us, and not just in the UK. We agree with Sir Peter Lampl that British society would benefit if even more young people could access independent schools. HMC members are fully committed to widening access to their schools. They spend more on bursaries per pupil than Russell Group universities do per undergraduate. We know there is more to be done. But we are part of the solution, not the root of the problem.’