'The Berlin Wall Manifesto' to reduce the divide between state & private schools

(125 Posts)
AmberTheCat Tue 04-Mar-14 10:46:36

This has arisen out of a series of recent articles in the New Statesman, picking up on various politicians' claims to want to break down the 'Berlin Wall' between state & private education.

What do we think?

1. Require private schools to sponsor at least one academy, and/or work in partnership with an academy provider, giving access to facilities and staff.

2. Allow private schools to convert to state school status through the Free Schools & Academies Programme.

3. Make private school charitable status conditional on freely offering 25% of places via random lottery to the most vulnerable children. No academic selection allowed.

4. Weaken the link between private schools and top universities by providing the highest GCSE scorer in each state school the opportunity to take a guaranteed interview at their choice of Cambridge, Durham or Oxford.

5. Disclosure of private schools’ accounts to give full details of bursaries, charitable activities and their impact.

6. Agree to take part in a Cross-Party Commission dedicated to finding the most practical way to fully implement these policies.

How about focussing attention on improving state schools rather than concentrating on schools that educate a small proportion of the population?

If the private school has charitable status then it can't be removed without a change in the law. I suspect many private schools might have given it up if they could. Additionally, their accounts are already available on the Charity Commissions website.

How many state secondaries are there? How many interviews would that mean?

Retropear Tue 04-Mar-14 11:40:28

What about the non vulnerable state kids,do they not get free private places?

Re interviews at uni until state schools push the public speaking like private schools do I'm not sure what a guaranteed interview will do.

No more charitable status for private schools and no more private entries for state grammars.

Also how about the number of Russell group uni places being divided into state/private according to the percentage of private/state secondary pupils.

bebanjo Tue 04-Mar-14 12:03:57

But everyone keeps telling me state schools are great, great teachers great oppertunitys. Is this not so?

Retropear Tue 04-Mar-14 12:12:00

They vary and sadly a private education guarantees you a leg up in life regardless of ability.

givemeaclue Tue 04-Mar-14 12:24:59

Wrt number 2, I know 2 private schools that have converted to state schools, this is already allowed?

givemeaclue Tue 04-Mar-14 12:27:41

Wrt to number 3, how would vulnerable children be defined? How would the cost of this be met?

givemeaclue Tue 04-Mar-14 12:31:32

Wrt to number 4, why those unis? What if they are not the best unis for child's chosen subject?

LaVolcan Tue 04-Mar-14 12:37:33

I don't think that a private education always guarantees you a leg up: thinking here of a few people who have gone to so-so private schools and have been no more successful in adult life than anyone else.

In a couple of cases the sense of entitlement that the school engendered has been a decided disadvantage. (Thinking particularly here of an ex-boyfriend who spent the early part of his adult life drifting from job to job - the rest of the world hadn't been told they owed him a living.)

reddidi Tue 04-Mar-14 12:40:20

1. I think that there are many practical details to this (what is the sanction if they don't comply? What is to stop schools from nominally doing this but not actually giving the sponsored school the support it needs? Who is going to monitor that and who is going to pay for the monitoring? ...), I am not saying that they cannot be solved but I suspect that any solution will be very unattractive and not meet the overall aim. This also assumes that every independent school has facilities and staff that would be of benefit to an academy (not all independent schools are brilliant, and some brilliant schools serve specific needs or are very small) and that there is an academy nearby that can, and wants to, benefit.

2. There is nothing to stop them doing this now (by sponsoring a new academy or free school and transferring existing staff and students to it). It would have to be non-selective of course.

3. What benefit do you think a cohort of 20 mixed ability students will get from being in the same year group as 60 students achieving 90% A*/A at GCSE? What happens to the bursaries schools currently offer - does it make sense to remove the opportunity to go to an independent school from an economically disadvantaged child who has been selected because they are able to benefit from the academic/musical/sporting opportunities offered to give it to another one who won't? What about the fact that the most vulnerable children are likely to receive less support at home and independent schools have little experience or perhaps even ability to cope with this?

4. I can't think that this would achieve very much, Oxbridge admissions already look at performance of a candidate relative to his school. But as there are only about 3,200 secondary schools and this probably represents 10% of the number interviewed for places at these three institutions (plucked that out of the sky, do correct if you want to do the research) I can't see anyone dying in a ditch opposing it on any grounds other than it is a silly headline-grabbing idea.

5. I think increased disclosure would be a good thing, this is true of charities generally. The Charities Commission is not often praised for its work, and the Education Funding Agency has been set up to require enhanced regulation and disclosure for academy and free schools. Perhaps the HMC, ISA, ISBA (?et al.) should look at a voluntary code of best practice for disclosures in annual reports to lessen the perceived need for increased regulation?

6. I am sure there would be no shortage of independent schools heads willing to put themselves forward for this. I can think of one anyway grin.

meditrina Tue 04-Mar-14 12:41:46

1. No. Some of course have already chosen to do so. But compulsion would not necessarily lead to improvements as there is no reason to expect all would be able to do so well.

2. Already exists.

3. No, firstly because the Charity Commission has ruled that provision of bursaries is neither necessary nor sufficient in assessing if a school which is also a charity is meeting it's registered aims. And secondly because it is unaffordable (the tax break is worth only about £200 per pupil per term, so costs is disproportionate).

4. Pointless. No pupil should be forced to list a university not of their choice.

5. Already exists.

6. Disagree there is a need as I disagree with the premise that any of the previous 5 points are desirable.

Dalliance Tue 04-Mar-14 12:45:33

The issue is the best (top 20) private schools are outstripping the best state schools academically and in terms of Oxbridge ..this is an embarassment to the education policy makers and leads to disgruntlement of the masses...but instead of demanding improvements to the state sector and investing to emulate the best things in the private sector, the aim seems to be to constantly attack privates and demand unis like Oxbridge lower the bar for state school entrants ...but you wholly ignore the issue at hand ...which is the level of teaching or aspirations in state schools. The fact is, policies to abolish charitable status will just lead to increase in private fees...those in the squeezed middle who scrimp and save to send their children private will be increasingly priced out ..the rich won't be affected at all.

lainiekazan Tue 04-Mar-14 12:49:45

4. reasonable idea, but what about the size of school? It would have to be in proportion to no. of pupils. Also in ds's comprehensive I would hazard a guess that the top 100 pupils may well be brighter than the top pupil at a certain comp down the road.

Also agree with retropear that the interview is often not a state school pupil's strongest suit.

Dalliance Tue 04-Mar-14 12:56:43

ans if you really want to emulate the best privates then allow for superselection at state not just on a one off test but on head's reports, interview and extended testing ...that way you will get an academically elite, and then heavily fund that school like the best privates and draw the best teachers from the best unis and prepare those elite chosen children to Oxbridge....but somehow I don't think OP will like that either ...but that is what the best privates do in order to do so well.

AmberTheCat Tue 04-Mar-14 12:59:43

Re. point no. 1, from the discussions I've read about this I don't think the manifesto authors mean to suggest that private schools are necessarily better than state schools, but that they do, on the whole, have better facilities. So the suggestion isn't that private schools should be taking over state schools, or even necessarily sharing pedagogical insights with them, but rather opening up their facilities for use by other schools.

Dalliance Tue 04-Mar-14 12:59:47

or you could just demand that Oxbridge brings down its standards for entry when it comes to state applicants .....

reddidi Tue 04-Mar-14 13:20:02

Charitable Status is a red herring. If it were removed, school charities would simply restructure with a non-charitable subsidiary operating the school and making no profit. This would add some administration costs and remove whatever charity regulation there is that applies to the school.

If you really want to punish people who choose to pay for their children to be educated in independent schools, and betray the wishes of charitable benefactors to provide funds for education by diverting 20% of them to the treasury purse, lobby for the removal of the VAT exemption for the provision of under-18 education [ducks]. Just don't believe anyone who says that the additional taxation will be hypothecated for education (or that it would make much difference anyway: if you take 20% of the cost of education of 10% of children and give it to the other 90% it might pay for an extra lesson a week).

meditrina Tue 04-Mar-14 13:24:32

The VAT rules are set by EU. I wouldn't pin hopes on achieving change for that (and would be slightly worried about opening up the question at all, as the current exemption is the same one that makes university fees exempt, and if you start fiddling with part, all might be altered irrespective of UK lobbying position).

reddidi Tue 04-Mar-14 13:30:02

What facilities do independent schools have that you think could help raise attainment in maintained schools?

reddidi Tue 04-Mar-14 13:42:10

The VAT rules are set by EU.
Indeed (well not all VAT rules, but the exemption covering young persons' education is).

I'm not saying it would be easy or even possible, and it would IMHO absolutely be undesireable. Just tossing a bone out there to separate the wolves of envy from the sheep of good intent (WTF?).

LaVolcan Tue 04-Mar-14 13:43:30

What pedagogical insights would a teacher from say Eton have, which would be relevant to the country's worse performing school?

elastamum Tue 04-Mar-14 13:43:53

I think you are barking up the wrong tree. Why not focus your attention on campaigning for improving state education rather than continually trying to dismantle the independant sector? Taking potshots at the private sector just diverts attention from the real problem which is that state education in some parts of the country is failing large numbers of children.

I get the feeling with these threads that some mumsnetters feel the is it their PFB who might benefit from a free private school place if one could be made available, so unduly focus on this rather than the wider educational issues. They slate the private sector, but I suspect many would soon keep quiet if little Harry or Harriet could have a free place

The private sector simply isnt big enough to solve the problems of state education and quite frankly it isnt their job to do so. That's what the government is there for. But they would rather focus your attention on the private sector than on their failure to deliver good state education for all hmm

meditrina Tue 04-Mar-14 13:45:18

I think I'd like to have a sheep of good intent - a restful sounding pet smile

AmberTheCat Tue 04-Mar-14 14:20:45

And just to make it clear, I didn't write this manifesto! I have sympathy with its aims, and think some of the suggestions are interesting, but they aren't my proposals. I'm genuinely interested in people's thoughts on whether they would work.

grovel Tue 04-Mar-14 14:34:19

They are tinkering proposals which won't help the vast majority.

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