Sponsor academies or lose tax breaks, says Wilshaw

Ofsted chief says independent schools should lose certain benefits if they do not take on academies

At a Sutton Trust summit, Sir Michael Wilshaw recently called for independent schools to stop opening schools abroad and instead sponsor local schools in the UK.

He said schools should stop “wringing their hands” about inequality and get “stuck in” by sponsoring an academy. “And I think they should lose their tax subsidies and the reliefs they get from the Charity Commission unless they sponsor an academy and show that they really mean what they say,” he continued.

Julie Robinson, General Secretary of ISC, said: “It is a shame that Ofsted’s chief inspector continues to attack independent schools.

“More than nine in ten of ISC schools are in mutually beneficial partnerships with state schools. This is very much direct involvement, sharing expertise, best practice and facilities in imaginative and creative ways, to the benefit of children in all the schools involved.’

Julie says 110 ISC schools have either sponsored academies or are members of groups which run both independent schools and academies, like the Girls’ Day School Trust. However, many schools do not have the resources to take on activities like academy sponsorship. “The typical independent school is a small prep with fewer than 350 pupils and working to tight financial margins with restraints on all other resources, she continued. “Whilst they work hard within their communities and with other local schools, they couldn’t conceivably sponsor an academy.

“Partnerships work best when they are desired by all parties and scalable. Threatening schools with sanctions unless they take up projects prescribed by government would only serve to undo the countless valuable activities already taking place.”

“Looking overseas, the truth is there are just 44 schools set up abroad by ISC schools and between them they do not employ large numbers of UK-trained teachers. It therefore seems wrong to state, as Mr Wilshaw has, that this is the cause of teacher shortages in this country and we see no reason why independent schools setting up international campuses should be a problem, for anyone.

“Money earned from these ventures is used in many areas of school life back in the UK, not least to help fund means-tested, fees-reduced places. As charities, independent schools do much for the communities around them and a key part of this is the offer of bursaries for students who would not otherwise be able to access independent education.

“It’s too easy to overlook what independent schools give back. As well as a drive to increase social mobility through fee assistance, there are also very plain financial benefits. A 2014 report by Oxford Economics valued ISC schools’ contribution to the nation at £9.5 billion, generating £3.6bn in tax revenues and saving the taxpayer £3bn.”

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