Top independent school to sponsor primary academy

The Times, 09/09/14, HMC member school, Wellington College, will open its second sponsored academy this week. HMC's Anthony Seldon is quoted.

Wellington College is sponsoring a primary school in Tidworth, Wiltshire, which will serve as a feeder school to its secondary academy a mile away. Both schools have taken Wellington’s name, staking its reputation on how well both perform.

Sir Anthony Seldon, the headmaster of Wellington and executive head of the academy since last year, admitted that he initially underestimated how “hands on” the college needed to be as an academy sponsor.

However, he said that the experience reaffirmed his belief that all independent schools should support a state school as an academy sponsor, and focus on children who most needed their backing.

Some private schools have sponsored selective sixth form academies. Brighton College and four other independent schools have backed the London Academy of Excellence, and Westminster School has sponsored a sixth form with the Harris Federation.

“The very clear lesson that we have learnt is that you can’t do it in a half-hearted way. You have simply got to come in and absolutely insist on the ethos and insist on adopting best practice,” Sir Anthony said.

“That may be why some of the [independent] schools want to go in at the top end, that they have taken kids who are proven successes in the state sector, floated to the top of the cream, and you then cream them off. If we are to see a social transformation here, independent schools should be involved in sponsoring kids who are not the stars, who have not flourished in the state sector already.”

From this term, pupils in its academy will wear the same uniform as children at Wellington College, and alumni of the independent school are being mobilised to offer internships and other support for its students, as they do for fee-paying pupils.

Michael Milner, the former director of studies at Wellington College who became principal of the academy last year, said he had made staff changes and aligned the curriculum and expectations of the schools more closely.

The primary school, opening in a new building to serve the growing garrison town, will begin with a reception class and three mixed-aged classes but will grow to a capacity of 420 children.

By Greg Hurst, The Times. Read the full article © The Times.