Gove has overlooked positive impact of independent schools, says Ipswich head

The head of Ipswich High School has responded to the environment secretary, commenting on how the state school system could not cope without independent schools

The head of Ipswich High School has spoken out against an interview recently given by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where he admitted he wanted the independent school sector to end.

Oona Carlin has expressed her disappointment in the interview and made a case for independent schools’ positive impact on local communities and the UK economy.

Gove said: “I would have hoped we would have been able to make sending your children to a private school, as it is in Europe, an increasingly eccentric choice.”

When asked if he wanted to end the independent sector by stealth, he replied: “Well, yes.”

Carlin argued: “I just don’t see how the British state school system could cope if some parents didn’t choose to send their children to an independent school.”

Read her full response below.

To say that I was disappointed to read the Evening Standard article from Michael Grove is an understatement. I realise that Mr Gove likes to court the press and is often outspoken to provoke a response but he appears to have lost touch with reality. I don’t disagree with the intent to improve the state school sector offer; I am sure that we all support this goal but to suggest that the decision to send children to private schools should be reserved for the ‘eccentric’ is, in my view preposterous.

I just don’t see how the British state school system could cope if some parents didn’t choose to send their children to an independent school. On average the government pays a state school £4,900 per pupil in the primary phase and £6,300 per pupil in the senior phase. Doing a very simple calculation if all the pupils in my school were to choose to go to a state school then the government would need to find a further 500 school places and about 2.8 million pounds to fund these places.

You must remember that most parents in UK independent schools are tax payers and therefore they are currently paying for the state education in their local area but not benefiting from it. Therefore if those parents choosing an independent education moved their children there wouldn’t be more money to support state schools there would actually be less money per pupil.

There are many reasons why parents might choose to send their children to an independent school; sometimes it is because they feel that the state school locally is not what they want for their children but it is usually about much more than that.

More often, parents choose an independent education because of the added activities and support beyond the curriculum. The parents at an independent school will expect an excellent academic education but will value the additional activities on offer such as sports, performing arts, clubs and other extension and extra-curricular activities. It is often about the rounded education an independent school can offer and the boarder curriculum which is not as restricted as in many state schools – often by government agendas.

Doing a very simple calculation if all the pupils in my school were to choose to go to a state school then the government would need to find a further 500 school places and about 2.8 million pounds to fund these places

The choice is frequently about the time and support teachers can offer to the pupils in an independent school. With independent schools usually offering smaller classes and a more bespoke approach to education the way that they teach can be tailored to the individual pupils in each class. At Ipswich High School we offer a Diamond Model of education where the teachers are able to adapt their teaching to suit co-educational and single-sex classes, where this best suits and supports the pupils’ development and understanding.

Many independent schools also have invested more money in the learning support that they can offer to individuals which allows them to identify learning needs, to work with pupils in groups or as individuals to overcome learning difficulties more easily.

We have to remember that independent schools have been established in the UK for several hundred years and they have offered and continue to offer a lot to their local communities. Often an independent school will offer facilities, services and support to their local communities and to their local schools.

In the article Mr Gove has overlooked the positive impact of independent schools on local communities and the UK economy. Independent schools are large employers in their local communities; they employ not only teaching staff but also employ support and services staff. The recent report by Oxford Economics, ‘The impact of independent schools on the UK economy’, shows that independent schools directly contribute £6.05bn to the UK GDP and they support over 147,000 jobs.

I don’t understand why there can’t be a truce. Why can’t politicians work with independent schools to see how we can actually work together to ensure that all pupils in all regions of the country get a great education. Many independent schools would be very happy to work with local authorities to take pupils into their schools to assist in areas with a shortage of places for pupils. Would it not be better for us all to put the child first?


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