HMC: independent schools ‘are not the villain here’

Mike Buchanan, chief executive of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, responds to the Sutton Trust’s report, Elitist Britain 2019

Independent schools “are not the villain here”, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) has said in response to a new Sutton Trust report.

Mike Buchanan, chief executive of the HMC, said: “Independent schools and the young people educated in them are not the villains here. What’s needed is sufficient funding and the freedom for all state schools to provide a powerfully transforming education and particular focus on the most disadvantaged.”

It is important to remember that school type is not of itself an indicator of socio-economic advantage or disadvantage –  Julie Robinson

“Using school type as a simplistic proxy for privilege is flawed,” Buchanan added.

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), said: “It is important to remember that school type is not of itself an indicator of socio-economic advantage or disadvantage.”

Elitist Britain 2019 was published by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission and researched the educational backgrounds of people working in 37 top professions, including politics, the judiciary and the media.

The report said: “The broad trajectory of private school over-representation appears to be downwards, but change is happening slowly. Two-fifths of the elite examined here (39%) attended independent schools, more than five times as many as the population at large (7%). The prospects of those educated at private schools remain significantly brighter than their peers.”

Robinson blamed the assumptions about independent schools on “misconceptions or stereotypes” and said they do not reflect that most ISC schools “work in partnership with state schools”.

Last year, 11,466 partnerships were recorded between independent and state schools “meaning many thousands of pupils at state schools are benefitting from collaboration in teaching support, careers advice and academic partnerships,” the ISC chief explained.

Robinson also highlighted that “independent schools allocate over £420m to reducing fees for children of lower income families, an increase of 6% compared with last year”.

Buchanan said, “access to opportunity is a much deeper societal issue” than independent schooling and the sector was “working collaboratively to address some of the disparities in opportunity”.

HMC, Buchanan said, “have proposed offering 10,000 new places a year, jointly funded by the Government and independent schools”.