Independent schools should reserve 10 per cent of sixth-form places for the poorest children, according to a school head
15th July 2019
Richard Russell, head of Colfe’s School in south London has said that too many schools give discounts to middle-class families rather than targeting bursaries at genuinely disadvantaged children.
A report by the Sutton Trust showed that privately educated employees made up almost two fifths of those in leading professions. It analysed the educational background of more than 5,000 senior people in 37 categories including politics, business, the media, civil servants and the creative industries.
It found 65 per cent of senior judges were privately educated, 59 per cent of civil service permanent secretaries, 57 per cent of the House of Lords and 52 per cent of diplomats.
Mr Russell said: “Now would be a good time for the independent sector to reflect on its approach to admissions. Real progress depends upon structural change, with a joined-up approach to social mobility between schools and universities, supported by government.
“The independent school sector includes some of the very best schools in the world. It could and should have a central role to play in a social mobility agenda. Targeting bursaries on pupils in genuinely disadvantaged circumstances, rather than spending resources on fee discounts for middle-class families, would be a step in the right direction.”
He wants to see 200 selective independent schools agreeing to reserve 10 per cent of their sixth form places for disadvantaged pupils on bursaries, saying: “The impact would be significant — at least 2,000 pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds a year progressing to top universities via the sixth forms of independent schools.
‘Character makes the biggest difference, not exam results’ – HMC chair
Shaun Fenton, head of Reigate Grammar School and chair of HMC, says teachers may not admit it, but our lives aren’t defined by grades
‘Of course, exams are important, and as head of a school where students’ achievements are likely to put them at the top of those blessed league tables with which the education sector is increasingly obsessed, you may say I can afford to underplay their importance.
Exams are an efficient way to test retained knowledge, but they do not measure crucial things like the quality of friendships, preparedness for adult life, team-working skills, or leadership qualities.
I am head of an independent school and have been head of an outstanding state grammar school and of an outstanding comprehensive school, so I know how our independent schools differ from those in the state sector.
At an independent school it is far easier to surf over politically-motivated targets and focus on helping children to be, and do, their best, even when these types of outcomes can’t be put in a spreadsheet.
The pursuit of excellence transcends Ofsted or league tables. There should be as many ways to succeed as there are children in the school.
Grades matter, of course, and in life beyond school they can open doors of opportunity. But you need to have fine qualities of character to become a happy and successful adult. It is your character that will make the biggest difference.
What’s the best thing to do for your child on exam results day?
Tell them: ‘You’ve worked hard. You’ve done the best you can. But the most important thing in life isn’t your grades but your qualities as a human being. They are what will determine what lies ahead.’