"Partnerships work best when they are desired by all parties and scalable"

Posted on: 09 Mar 2016
Posted by: Julie Robinson

Julie Robinson, General Secretary of ISC responds to the Ofsted chief inspector's claims that all independent schools should sponsor an academy and that setting up international schools is a 'moral outrage'

It is a shame that Ofsted's chief inspector continues to attack independent schools.

More than nine in ten of ISC schools are in mutually beneficial partnerships with state schools. This is very much direct involvement, sharing expertise, best practice and facilities in imaginative and creative ways, to the benefit of children in all the schools involved.

110 of our schools have done excellent work in either sponsoring academies or as members of groups which run both independent schools and academies. However, the typical independent school is a small prep with fewer than 350 pupils and working to tight financial margins with restraints on all other resources. Whilst they work hard within their communities and with other local schools, they couldn't conceivably sponsor an academy.

Partnerships work best when they are desired by all parties and scalable. Threatening schools with sanctions unless they take up projects prescribed by government would only serve to undo the countless valuable activities already taking place.

Looking overseas, the truth is there are just 44 schools set up abroad by ISC schools and between them they do not employ large numbers of UK-trained teachers. It therefore seems wrong to state, as Mr Wilshaw has, that this is the cause of teacher shortages in this country and we see no reason why independent schools setting up international campuses should be a problem, for anyone.

Alongside many well-known products, goods and services, British education is a great export success story and it makes little sense not to recognise this fact positively.

Money earned from these ventures is used in many areas of school life back in the UK, not least to help fund means-tested, fees-reduced places. As charities, independent schools do much for the communities around them and a key part of this is the offer of bursaries for students who would not otherwise be able to access independent education.

A third of all independent school pupils now receive some form of fee assistance - £800 million a year benefitting 168,000 boys and girls. This figure is increasing year-on-year and is certainly being supported by the increase in overseas campuses.

It's too easy to overlook what independent schools give back. As well as a drive to increase social mobility through fee assistance, there are also very plain financial benefits. A 2014 report by Oxford Economics valued ISC schools' contribution to the nation at £9.5 billion, generating £3.6bn in tax revenues and saving the taxpayer £3bn.