Head of leading private school reacts to Green Paper

Mike Buchanan, Headmaster of Ashford School says that independent schools already do plenty to support state schools.

By Hannah Vickers

Headmaster of Ashford School Mike Buchanan has responded to the Government’s threat to cut the charitable status of independent schools that do not do enough to support state schools.

In a speech at the annual HMC conference, the Chairman of Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents 282 of the UK’s top independent schools, argued that forcing independent schools and state schools to work together could do more harm than good, likening the situation to a ‘forced marriage’. He said that the UK’s independent schools share much of the Prime Minister’s vision and that she is “knocking at an open door.”

Prime Minister Theresa May praised independent schools for their “world-wide reputation for excellence” in the Government’s recently published Green Paper, “Schools that work for everyone,” but said that much more could be done to help “children from a wider variety of backgrounds truly benefit from the excellent education they can deliver.”

She said that independent schools that didn’t do enough to provide sponsorship for a neighbouring state school could lose their charitable status and the tax breaks they enjoy. The consultation, published last month, said that independent educators would have to offer more scholarships and bursaries to pupils unable to afford fees and that smaller private schools will have to share resources.

Buchanan argued that the UK’s independent schools already do a lot to support state schools and criticised the Government’s use of threats to force cooperation. ‘Using charitable status as a stick to beat us with is both a blunt instrument and one which is unlikely to hit its target,” he said.

He has pledged to support the Government’s plans for the state sector, but argued that independent schools already do a lot of work to support state schools and that private schools could not work with “a gun held to their heads”. He said that the private sector will continue its efforts to support less affluent pupils in their schools and to work with state schools and that “coercion is unnecessary,” as independent schools are already partnering with state schools and providing support such as teaching, masterclasses, special events, facilities and help with university applications.

“First and foremost, our schools need to continue to be successful examples of excellence. If we take our eye of that ball, we will stop delivering in our own schools, let alone in any others.’

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