Independent schools boss criticises ‘anti-privilege mood’

CREDIT: This story was first seen in iNews

Private schools should not be blamed for social segregation, the head of an organisation representing 1,200 independent schools has said.

iNews reports that Julie Robinson, general secretary of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), slammed what she called an “anti-privilege mood” after former education secretary Justine Greening recently suggested that employers should discriminate against old Etonians in favour of those with the same grades from under-performing schools.

Ms Greening urged companies to play their part in boosting social mobility by using “contextual recruitment”, which takes into account the context in which someone’s academic results are achieved.

Speaking to the Times Education Supplement, Ms Robinson said tackling the “lazy caricature” of independent schools as “old-fashioned and full of one type of child” was important.

“We’ve got some small schools that share the local academy’s swimming pool because they don’t have one – it works both ways,” she said.

“School type is not a proxy for social advantage.”

Ms Robinson said this anti-privilege sentiment was unhelpful to schools trying to work together to improve education.

She pointed to a Sutton Trust report showing that social segregation exists in many comprehensive schools.

The educational charity found that social selection is evident in the country’s top 200 comprehensive schools, where 5.6% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, compared with 14.3% in secondary schools nationally.

The report went on to find that most of the 61 local authority controlled schools in the top 200 schools to be located in affluent areas, with free school meal rates well below the national average.

Ms Robinson, who went to a Sussex comprehensive, said some parents “spend more on their house [to get into the catchment area of an ‘outstanding’ state school] than they would on fees at some of the schools”.

She said: “That’s the segregation, it’s not caused by our little sector, so it’s a shame.”

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Ms Robinson was speaking before the Department for Education announced it was dropping a manifesto plan to strip lucrative tax breaks from private schools that fail to help state schools.

Instead, independent schools will only be “expected” to provide teaching and mentoring support and allow state schools to use their facilities – with no sanctions if they refuse.

Labour seized on the rethink to warn there would now be “no meaningful action to get value for the subsidies that benefit private schools”.

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