Challenging the stereotype

Challenging the stereotype

14 July 2020

Independent schools in Britain support social mobility and social equity

It sounds like an impossibility, because the media presentation of private schools is dominated by rich toffs wearing straw boaters or top hats, but the reality in modern Britain is that independent schools have become a positive force for good across the socio-economic spectrum.

In research for an MSc with Oxford University, I have looked into this question and spoken not only with the headmasters and headmistresses of some of Britain’s best-known independent schools, but also with leaders from state secondary schools across England. Without doubt, a child who has been educated at a leading private school has, in the past, been rewarded with enduring privilege. Many commentators would go on to claim that this privilege has been to the detriment of a wider social mobility agenda. My investigations revealed clear evidence, however, that modern practices in independent schools are increasing access for less-advantaged children and that these schools are increasingly sharing both facilities and teaching.

What has changed the most of all, according to the empirical research which I conducted via interviews and questionnaires is that former ideologies have melted away and a new generation of school leaders have brought a new determination to use education for the common good. Although some mutual mistrust continues to exist, I was able to reveal an increasing appetite for collaboration between the state and the independent sectors.

The latest census to emerge from the Independent Schools Council (ISC) shows that 85% of private schools now have partnerships with state schools. To put this into context, only 73% of ISC schools hold charitable status – this is up from just 40% as recently as 2003. The kind of partnerships which exist these days begin with sharing swimming pools, astroturfs and theatres, but extend to genuinely meaningful collaboration such as academic masterclasses, joint concerts, preparation of A level students for admissions interviews to Oxbridge colleges and support for difficult to teach subjects such as Further Maths, Latin, German, Drama and Physics.


Extract from an article by Charles Fillingham, Headmaster, Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park

You can read the rest of this article on the Edge Thinking website, where it was first published.

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