Preserve of the super-rich

Private schools “socially exclusive”

GMT 02:56 2012 Sunday ,22 April

Arab Today, arab today Private schools “socially exclusive”

Top schools become as “socially exclusive”
London - Arabstoday

Top schools become as “socially exclusive” London - Arabstoday Schools are in danger of becoming “the sole preserve of the super-rich” following a sharp rise in fees, said Martin Stephen, the former High Master of St Paul’s School, west London. Dr Stephen said year-on-year price increases had resulted in the “financial and social marginalisation” of the independent sector that could lead to the “extinction” of many schools. He accused private schools of being “frozen in the past”. Dr Stephen said their “governance structures are those of the Industrial Revolution and ill-suited for contemporary society”. The comments will be seen as an embarrassing blow to the system of private education. Dr Stephen is a former chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents schools such as Eton and Harrow. He led The Perse School in Cambridge and Manchester Grammar School before becoming High Master of St Paul’s between 2004 and 2011. He is now director of education at Gems UK – a private school chain set up to promote “affordable” independent education. Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, Dr Stephen said most fee-paying schools had “put themselves in a very dangerous position”. “They are pricing themselves out of the reach of most normal people in the UK,” he said. “Even on a salary of more than £50,000, it would be exceptionally hard to afford a place at a boarding school, and even many day schools. The result is that the independent sector is becoming socially exclusive in a way not seen since Victorian times. “Not only is it in danger of becoming the sole preserve of the super-rich, but it is in danger of losing even the tacit support of the average UK voter.” Figures published by the Independent Schools Council last year showed average fees rose by 4.5 per cent in 12 months — topping £13,000 for the first time. School leaders say recent fee rises have been lower than those levied in previous years, while they are investing record sums in bursaries for poor pupils. But Dr Stephen said schools often sought to “suck out” the best pupils from the state system. He urged independent schools to cut their fees and work with local state schools or face going bust. “The choice is clear: independent schools, like any other species, must evolve or face extinction,” he said. Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, the head of research at the Independent Schools Council, said schools provided a “world-class education” for thousands. “Even in hard economic times, parents continue to make it a priority to find the fees to send their children to independent schools, valuing the well-rounded education and the excellent start in life that they offer,” he said. “Contrary to any concerns that the public may be turning against the independent sector, the opposite is in fact true. Last year’s Populus survey showed people increasingly believe independent education to be of a higher standard than state education. “This is in line with figures showing that opposition to the sector has fallen dramatically.”

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