October 25 2014 Latest news:
Monday, July 7, 2014
The headteacher of a top public college has called on the education secretary to focus on improving state schools so that they become “genuine, viable alternatives” to independents.
Paul Taylor, headmaster at Framlingham College, was speaking at Speech Day on Saturday when he made the comments.
“There are those out there at the moment – it seems on all sides of the political and social spectrum – that seem determined to undermine the excellence that is represented by so many schools in the independent sector,” he said.
“And before I go on let me stress that no one, by the way, is suggesting that such excellence is the exclusive preserve of the independent sector.
“However, cheap jibes are the currency of the current political marketplace, and schools such as ours are the easy target, with such attacks in my view also threatening by implication so many of the principles of the free, open society that we all celebrate.”
His view could be seen as a response to the secretary of state for education, Michael Gove’s, call for independent schools to be inspected by Ofsted, the current state regulator. Private schools are reviewed by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).
Mr Taylor said: “I for one, however, will refuse to apologise for pursuing excellence, diversity and breadth in education, or for the emphasis that we place on the values that underpin a decent community and society.
“Surely the aim should be to level up, not down, and I just can’t fathom any policy that deliberately erodes known areas of excellence in order to ensure perceived – and often superficial – equality (and we can all think of national regimes that have tried just this in living memory: it doesn’t work).
“A better route, surely, is for any education secretary to improve the critical mass of schools in the maintained sector to the extent that they become genuine, viable alternatives to independent schools: that is what choice (a critical word here) is all about.”
State schools are currently given an overall rating on a four-point scale – outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate.
Headteachers can be sacked and schools converted to into independent academies under new leadership if inspectors find failings. ISI, in comparison, does not provide a single overall judgment but instead assigns scores to all elements of school life such as the quality of leadership and management and teaching.