Progress, independents and meaningful partnerships | newschoolsnetwork.org

Progress, independents and meaningful partnerships

NSN's Policy and Press Officer, Will Colahan, looks at how free schools have partnered with the independent sector to spread opportunity to all children.

Despite all of the progress we have made in spreading educational opportunity, the sad fact is, as the report from the Sutton Trust and Social mobility commission shows, children’s life chances are still dependent on their parents ability to pay.

At NSN, we think it's morally wrong for the quality of your education to be dependent on wealth.  That’s why we campaign to make sure that every child can go to an Outstanding school that helps them unlock their full potential.

Across the country there are 500 schools that haven’t been rated Good in over a decade. This is especially problematic in primary schools. Among this number, Ofsted has identified 290 ‘stuck schools’ – primary schools which have been judged as Satisfactory, Requires Improvement or Inadequate at every inspection since 2005.

Wealthy parents can afford to buy their way out, but most parents can’t. That’s why the free schools programme is so important, giving every family the chance to demand more for their children.

Free schools offer an educational lifeline, bringing not just great schooling, but a renewed sense of aspiration into communities that have been let down for too long. Without new schools we will never address the burning injustices which have left so many families feeling like they have been forgotten by Government and left with no choice but to send their children to underperforming schools.

Private schools themselves need to recognise their privileged position and do more to justify generous tax breaks. For instance, by using their resources to support schools in the state sector. Free schools are a powerful example of this; schools like the London Academy of Excellence (LAE). The free school was established by eight independent schools to increase the levels of university entry in the borough and wider area; six independent schools – Brighton College, Caterham School, Eton College, Forest School, Highgate School, University College School – are partnered with LAE, providing staff, expertise and governance support, as well as a pupil-linking ‘buddy’ system. LAE has been incredibly successful, with 90% of all grades A* - B. Such is the success that another LAE opened in 2017 in Tottenham, with eight new Independent partners.

Other schools, like Holyport College, have also seen meaningful partnerships with the independent sector provide opportunities for students. Holyport students benefit from use of Eton College’s world class facilities and from the opportunity to build relationships with staff and students currently at Eton.

But resources and facilities aren’t the only way. Private schools and businesses can give back by supporting senior leaders to join school trust boards. NSN's Academy Ambassadors programme helps match experienced professionals to school trusts. If the independent sector is to continue receiving generous tax breaks, it is only right they support their peers in the state sector. We want all private schools to embrace responsible capitalism; in the same way we expect all FTSE 100 companies to engage with the AA programme, the time is now for all independent schools to step up and support local state schools to truly drive social justice and improve the life chances of every child.

Blog topic:
General education