Independent schools are helping the fightback against coronavirus, says sector leader

Posted on: 19 Mar 2020

Britain’s independent schools today reveal plans to help the UK’s fightback against coronavirus with efforts to support their local communities.

The move comes as one of the sector’s leading voices urges independent schools to “be at the heart” of the national effort.

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), says that the unprecedented circumstances facing the UK mean that “it is incumbent on us all to do whatever we can, wherever we can.”

Schools across the country face the prospect of enforced shutdowns at a time when they would usually be preparing for exams. Despite the challenges facing them, Ms Robinson – a former headteacher – praised schools who have already begun thinking about how they can support “the communities we live and learn in.”

These include:

o West Lodge School in Sidcup, South London, where the headteacher Robert Francis has lent his head of IT to the neighbouring state school called Orchard Primary with the aim to install a home learning system that children can access. West Lodge has committed to providing two hours every day for every year group for as long as schools are closed. Yesterday the PTA donated £850 to the local foodbank in Bexley to support families who may need support and will continue to do so in the forthcoming weeks.

o The East Kent Schools Together partnership is turning its attention to how to support partners as they move into the realm of distant learning. From today, EKST will be collating a suite of online resources on its website – although primarily targeted at its seven partner schools, these will be accessible to all state and independent schools. These resources will include a mix of general and more subject-specific tools, to use in the virtual classroom.

o St Anselm’s in Bakewell, Derbyshire, has asked its community to support schools by donating boxes of non-perishable food to children receiving free school meals.

o The headteacher of Francis Holland School, Sloane Square, delivered £350 worth of perishable food supplies to Katherine Low Settlement, a multi-purpose charity, serving the communities of Wandsworth and south London having closed yesterday.

Julie Robinson said: “The Government has said we need a wartime effort to tackle coronavirus and it’s heartening to see schools thinking beyond their own gates and supporting the communities we live and learn in. The number of schools, teachers, parents and pupils determined to play their part brings some light at these dark times.

“We are in uncharted territory. People are anxious and uncertain. That’s why it is incumbent on us all to do whatever we can, wherever we can, to be at the heart of this national effort.

“I know these are testing times for schools. But by pulling together, we can make a huge difference.”

Robert Francis, head, West Lodge School said: “This is an extremely difficult time for us all, including schools. But this is not the time to bunker down. Now more than ever we need to be doing all we can for the elderly, the vulnerable and those in the communities around us. I’m hopeful that through sharing our online tools we can help support schools and children across Sidcup.”

The ISC represents over 1,300 independent schools and educates more than half a million children each year. Julie Robinson has been a prominent supporter of partnerships between state schools and independent schools, calling them “a vision for levelled-up education”.


Notes to producers

Julie Robinson, ISC chief executive, and Robert Francis, head, West Lodge School, Sidcup are available for broadcast appearances this week.