‘Coercion is unnecessary’ for independent schools to work with the state sector, HMC says

Addressing the government’s ‘Schools that work for everyone’ green paper for the first time, Mike Buchanan, the chair of the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference (HMC), has stressed that ‘coercion is unnecessary’ to encourage independent schools to work with the state sector.

The green paper suggested that there was ‘much more’ that independent schools could be doing to improve education for young people from poorer backgrounds and suggested that if they did not meet new requirements set out by the government, such as sponsoring under-performing state schools and being responsible for their performance, then independent schools could have their charitable status taken away.

Buchanan said that Prime Minister Theresa May was ‘knocking at an open door’, as independent schools are already delivering substantial programmes to improve state education and create places for less affluent pupils in their schools.

He went on to warn that independent schools will not be able to deliver effective help to state schools ‘with a gun pointing at our heads’ and criticised the government for using charitable status as a ‘stick to beat us with’.

Buchanan said: “Quite frankly, we cannot solve the structural problems in education that taxpayers entrust to the government – to the tune of £86 billion each year - nor should we be expected to…. I would ask the Prime Minister to listen carefully to our advice on what will be deliverable and effective in pushing up standards in the long term.”

He added: “We know that our colleagues in state schools often do a fantastic job with fewer resources, larger classes, more curriculum constraints and significantly different challenges and we do not presume to patronise them by suggesting we can necessarily run their schools better than they can. But with open hearted collaboration and a flexible approach, great things can happen

“Using charitable status as a stick to beat us with is both a blunt instrument and one which is unlikely to hit its target. Indeed, it’s likely to erode some of the excellent charitable activities painstakingly built up over many years”

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