A memo sent to HMC heads on Monday revealed that the HEFCE had got its figures wrong. They had previously reported that students from state schools outperform their independently schooled peers at university The maths was flawed; the opposite was true. Obviously, their retraction reveals an embarrassing blunder for them, but more than this, the two months since they released their erroneous findings have been a little awkward, to say the least, for the leaders of independent schools. As a leader of one such school, I unequivocally believe that schools like mine add value to students’ lives: extra curricular provision within the independent sector is certainly a big persuader for many parents; the opportunities which are on offer within a school that enjoys more freedom to choose its aims and curriculum can be liberating for all; careers and university guidance are taken for granted as a provision in our schools. I would not be doing the job I do if I didn’t believe in the ethos. Similarly, I wouldn’t be choosing to send my own children to independent schools - a choice we have been able to make since they were four years old.
That’s not to say that I do not value the state sector nor respect colleagues who work within it. Far from it. I have been lucky enough to visit some exceptional schools in the maintained sector and benefited from collegiality amongst outstanding heads from a variety of institutions through formal and informal partnerships. What worries me about the press is that it tries to polarise our schools, to pit us against each other - some newspapers like to invert snobbery, some propagate it. What I would like to see more of, is partnership between schools across the gamut of institutions. We are, to coin the High School Musical refrain, all in this together.