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Roland Martin - Issue #38

Schools that work for everyone?

Roland Martin

December 13 · Issue #38 · View online
Headmaster - City of London Freemen's school; Chief Officer - City of London - '...write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing' Benjamin Franklin

Schools that work for everyone?

Government consultation
The Government’s consultation on the ‘Providing Good Schools for Everyone’ paper closed today (Monday). Meanwhile, ISC has published a radical proposal about the future of subsidised independent school places [here] alongside existing collaborations between the state and independent sectors and future plans for indie/state school foundations. HMC Chair, Mike Buchanan, has nailed his colours to the mast in The Telegraph [here]. While I’m well aware that my axe has been well ground and my drum has been well banged on these proposals - here on this blog series, and elsewhere when chairing the Futures Group for the Society of Heads - I didn’t feel that I could let this week slide by without comment.
What they say ...
I thought I should probably offer up the highlights of the week’s press on the proposal. They have focused more on the free places than other components of the tripartite ISC paper - 1. The creation of up to 10,000 free places in independent schools, every year, for families who would not be able to afford fees 2. Independent schools to help set up new state schools to create more good state school places 3. Growth of existing relationships and mutually beneficial collaborative work between independent and state schools - the figures are headline grabbing.
The BBC presents a survey of the news here:
Private schools plan 10,000 free places for low-income pupils - BBC News
Private schools' plan to offer 10,000 free places for poorer students under attack
Private schools in England propose 10,000 free places | Education | The Guardian
Independent schools ask taxpayer to help them fund 10,000 free places | News
Why bother?
Some news outlets suggest that the previous regime of government assisted places did not work. I’d, as you probably expect, take some umbrage here and refute this point of view. Nonetheless, the HMC and the ISC have made it clear that this scheme is NOT a return to assisted places, but a new option.
The state has helped poor pupils into private schools before – did it work? | The Independent
Poor pupils found private schools alienating, says study | Education | The Guardian
What do I think?
With regard to the partnerships between sectors, my response to the Government consultation has expressed my wish that governors, heads and schools be allowed to continue to do what is best for our particular communities. Both sectors need to engage with projects voluntarily; the key issue to partnerships.
Schools Week’s Laura McInerney suggests we follow India’s lead (The Guardian, Sunday 11 December, here) and make ‘all private schools … take 25% of pupils from among the poorest families … at random. No ability tests, no catchments areas. Admission by lottery’ in order to share more equally share our social responsibility. I have to say, I’m not entirely averse to the idea, but not right now, not while we are all duty bound to jump through league table hoops to prove our merit. Scrap them, measure our worth by what we add, and I’m in.
With regard to the news that the government could well be considering supporting families who are just managing, I remain a keen supporter. All four of the schools with which I have been engaged in my career have engaged with young people from deprived areas. I’m very proud to have been associated with them and these projects.
With regard to grammar school expansion, I don’t think we should expand. There are enough well functioning grammars already - let’s build, let’s move forward, let’s look at other ways of encouraging social mobility. Growing up in a grammar school catchment, I saw academically weaker children consigned to a rubbish heap, being given no hope. Nostalgia is not the answer. Why spend so much on academies and free schools only to renege and time hop?
Finally, there’s a solution to the government’s ping-pong yo-yo response to education which I’ve been suggesting for some time: We need a sort of education cabinet office, an impartial body, or responsible teaching college that drives non-political child centred policies forward in spite of whomsoever is in charge, which would save 'Education’ from being just another bargaining tool during electoral campaigns. Surely we owe children that much?
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