ISC response to Prime Minister's policy speech on social mobility

Posted on: 09 Sept 2016

Following the Prime Minister's policy speech on education and social mobility which raised the subject of independent schools' partnership work and charitable status, the ISC says schools are happy to continue playing their part.

We are delighted to hear the Prime Minister recognise the knowledge, expertise and resources that independent schools have to offer and that we will continue to be encouraged to share these even further.

At present the vast majority of independent schools engage in partnership work with other schools around them and we estimate this involves 10,000 state schools and 160,000 state school pupils.

Partnership work is extremely diverse. Our schools organise sporting projects, host joint events, share playing fields, provide coaching time, put on plays and concerts, arrange exciting academic competitions and give advice to state school students who want to go to university. Those with the resources to do so have helped create new state schools and remain actively involved.

This work isn't box ticking; it's part of the very essence of what our schools do. Schools partner with local communities and other schools because it's right to and because they want to.

With 25,000 state schools in the UK and just over 1,000 ISC independent schools, there is clearly a limit to the support our sector can provide and so it is encouraging to hear the government recognise that partnership work should be proportionate to the size and scale of each school.

ISC and its constituent associations remain committed to the position that when it comes to productive partnership work, one size does not fit all and independent schools should be allowed to find the best way to work with state schools according to local conditions and through established working relationships.

We're happy to continue this work and for government and the nation to see.

Also, fee assistance has continued to increase over many years, with both the amount available and the number of children who benefit rising. Bursaries are worth more than £700m and are awarded to over 41,000 pupils. Nearly 5,400 children pay no fees at all and 42% of bursary pupils only pay half fees.

ISC schools do everything they can to offer help with fees, so children can come to our schools whatever their background.

The reality of charitable status is complex, but we can prove our schools put into society far more than they take out by saving the tax payer, boosting local economies and supporting choice and innovation.

Our schools are grateful for the financial benefits of charitable status, but this is not what motivates them to work hard in their communities. The UK benefits as a result.

Like all charities, schools with charitable status are held to account by the Charities Commission and they must show how they fulfil their charitable obligations through public benefit in the context of their own particular circumstances.

The Prime Minister said she was 'unapologetic' in her belief in social mobility. We share the same sentiment. And in the drive towards greater and meaningful social mobility in the UK, we believe that independent schools are part of the solution, not the problem.

We're very happy to play our part in this.