Tag Archives: Independent school

Parental Choice

Whatever happened to parental choice? This week I have been watching the debate at the HMC Conference (Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference) with interest as its chairman Dr Tim Hands hit back at private education detractors who, he claims, have turned parents into effective ‘social lepers’ for choosing the independent path.

Dr Hands is right when he says that it is ‘illogical’  for parents to be criticised for paying for an independent education for their child or children when it was deemed acceptable for them to buy an expensive home next to a top state school to secure a place.

It is about time someone stood up to the hypocrites who criticise other parents for paying when they themselves have paid by subterfuge by buying a house in the catchment of an excellent state school or sanction those that have simply because ‘at least it is a state school’.

But let’s face it – when some of our top politicians past and present – only pay lip-service to the state sector themselves, no wonder we are straining to hear that chorus of disapproval!

Stand up Messrs Blair and Clegg and others of their ilk for ‘doing the right thing’ by sending their children to state school but not just any state school, of course – one of the most socially-exclusive schools in the UK – far more so than many independent schools – the London Oratory. They and others have just paid lip-service to the pro-state school and anti-independent school brigade by choosing a state school which, let us be blatant, might as well be a private school! And don’t even get me started on Nick Clegg, the ‘atheist’ and anti-faith school politician, and his choice of this Roman Catholic faith school.

Dr Hands’ speech came in the week the independent school sector faced yet further opposition from the Ofsted Chief Inspector of Schools Michael Wilshaw who criticised independent schools for ‘offering crumbs from the table to state schools’.

It has become fashionable in certain sectors of the establishment and the media to knock not just independent schools but also the parents who choose them.

Let’s be candid here – criticism is the last thing such parents should face. As other Heads of independent schools will know, many of the parents who choose to pay do so at great financial sacrifice to themselves because they believe education is the greatest gift they can give their child. These parents should not be attacked; they should be applauded. Parents have a right to choice – whether that is independent or state education – and whichever path they choose – they should be respected for that – well, perhaps unless they start to criticise the opposite camp!


Charity Commission Ruling

I am delighted to learn today  that Independent Schools and their trustees have been once again allowed to make their own way when it comes to offering means tested  bursaries.

However, I am disappointed  to read how the press are reporting on the issue.  It is frustrating to read  reports that suggest that the only reason that schools such as mine offered means-tested bursaries was as a box ticking exercise.

Many great schools have been offering bursaries for all of the right reasons long before Dame Suzi Leather was ever on the scene at the helm of the Charity Commission, and it is, for many of us, the embodiment of our school’s fundamental ethos that we offer help to bright pupils whose parents would never be able to finance a private education without support.  At my own school, we offer bursaries to those girls who would most benefit from the kind of education we offer.  Many of these young women have gone on to great things, and in return, are only too willing to support others as a result of the education they have been afforded.

To say that we should be offering our facilities to local schools and clubs is also insulting. Again, many of us do this, not because we are told to, but because is the right thing to do.  For example, at Heathfield, we are in the privileged position of having a wonderful swimming pool.  This pool is not used by the school all of the time, so we are delighted to welcome several other primary schools and a school for the disabled from the local area to use our facilities.  We do this because it is the right thing to do.

We are also thrilled to have strong links with a local maintained school in Windsor.  Here we have shared teachers, which has certainly enriched the educational experience of our own girls and staff.  We regularly hold seminars on a range of different subject from History of Art, and memory skills to Science.  It is our pleasure to invite all of our local schools to send pupils from their own establishments to join with us and hear what our amazing lecturers have to say.

I believe that everyone in education should be shouting about education.  I believe that if my school has the ability to share in our joy of learning with others, this is what we should be doing.  At Heathfield, we will continue to make every effort  to continue to reach out to others, despite the very recent changes in  guidelines. In fact, we are planning to do even more to help children from less privileged backgrounds.