ADONIS ON PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND ACADEMIES

ADONIS ON PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND ACADEMIES

Berlin Wall between sectors must be broken down

Independent sectors moral and charitable mission to support Academies

Comment

Lord Adonis laid down the gauntlet to independent schools in his speech at the SSAT  Annual Lecture on 28 June

.He believes that the independent sector is simply not doing enough to support Academies, the independent state schools he helped create.

Adonis is keen to “breach the educational Berlin Wall between private and state education’” and sees support for Academies as one means of doing this. Around 18 per cent of full-time students over the age of 16 are at private schools and privately educated pupils   are disproportionately represented at our top universities and across the professions.  Adonis said “Institutions shape societies, and educational institutions do so perhaps more than any others outside the family. “ He wants successful private schools to be prominent among the sponsors for the next wave of academies.  He did acknowledge though that some private schools are already involved. Dulwich is successfully sponsoring an academy in Sheppey. Wellington is successfully sponsoring an academy in Tidworth Wiltshire. (Anthony Seldon, Lord Adonis and Michael Gove share very similar views on this issue). The King Edward VI Foundation is sponsoring an academy in Birmingham, alongside its two private schools and five state grammar schools. All of these academies are replacing failing comprehensives. The Girls Day School Trust has converted two of its outstanding private schools, in Liverpool and Birkenhead, into state academies. Three of the most impressive academy chains – built up by the Mercers Company, the Haberdashers Company, and the City of London Corporation – have grown out of the management of historic private schools, leveraging this educational expertise and experience to establish chains of academies alongside. The City Corporation, historic sponsors of the City of London Schools for Boys and Girls, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, now sponsors three academies in its neighbouring boroughs on Islington, Southwark and Hackney. The Mercers, historic managers of St Paul’s Girls and St Paul’s Boys Schools, now sponsor an academy nearby in West London, and a chain of academies growing out of the Mercers’ outstandingly successful Thomas Telford School – one of the original City Technology Colleges – in Telford. The Haberdashers, with their historic private schools in Elstree and Monmouth, now have two clusters of successful academies, one in Lewisham and the other in Telford.

But Adonis wants much more. “Everything about academies” he said “is in the DNA of the successful private school: independence, excellence, innovation, social mission. And the benefit is not only to the wider community, it is also to the private schools themselves, whose mission is enlarged, whose relative isolation is ended, and whose social engagement, beyond the families of the better-off, is transformed.” Adonis believes that such support falls within the Charitable remit of independent schools. He said “To those in the private schools, and their governing bodies, who are reluctant to embrace academies, I appeal both to their professionalism and to their moral and charitable missions. It was excusable to stand apart from state-funded education when the state and its leaders did not want you engaged in the first place. But that is the isolationist politics of the past. The politics of the present and the future is that the nation seeks your engagement in setting up new independent state-funded academies in a way which does not compromise your independence, and which renews for the 21st century your essential moral and charitable purposes.”

Adonis concluded “With vision and leadership, there could be hundreds more academies sponsored by private school foundations, changing the face of education in this country for the better. Now is the time to act.”

Adonis’ call has been made before. Most independent schools carry out a range of charitable functions for public benefit-including offering bursaries, sharing facilities teaching and so on. Some, as we have seen, support Academies .But those who don’t would argue that its up to them as charitable institutions, and their Trustees  to determine how best to deliver public benefit and they cherish their independence, not least from politicians meddling. Some also rather resent being lectured to by politicians about their ‘moral’ missions.  Nonetheless, as Seldon has found with the Tidworth Academy, in Wiltshire, which Wellington College supports, these arrangements can deliver benefits to both parties and both communities. They also benefit the many, rather than the few, unlike bursaries, which serve to cream skim some of the best pupils from the state system. This may benefit the individuals concerned  but surely  not the schools they leave. ADONIS SSAT LECTURE 28 JUNE

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