I recently received a letter telling me that although a number of children at my school have been identified as needing specialist support, they will now have to pay extra if the Local Education Authority is to continue to help them. The reason given? Because they attend an independent school.
The LEA had previously been supporting some of the pupils in the school without cost, but, without any consultation, this support is now being withdrawn.
At this point in time, it is unclear if this is unique to Staffordshire and I have contacted fellow heads in independent schools to see if they are receiving similar notice. Feedback so far is that other local authorities have not yet taken this action but is it just around the corner for them as well?
“They pay the same taxes that entitle their children to a state education but it only ever seems to be held against them.”
Others in Staffordshire also hadn’t picked up on this development but I can’t imagine that it will only apply to my school and not the one just down the road from me.
It is perhaps no coincidence that this notification has come just as schools are breaking up for the summer, perhaps in an effort to avoid any immediate backlash since many may not pick up on this until they return in September.
It goes without saying that we will make sure our pupils still get the best support possible but I do consider this to be a clear case of discrimination. Many of the families sending their children to our school make massive sacrifices to make it possible for them to attend; they pay the same taxes that entitle their children to an education from the state but it only ever seems to be held against them, even though they are freeing up additional funding to support other children.
They really are getting nothing for their contribution to the state.
Sadly, the narrative is that everyone who goes to an independent school is very wealthy. It simply isn’t the case. I can genuinely testify to this with the number of bursaries we give out at Stafford Grammar School to support families who can’t otherwise afford the school.
The reason many choose to send their children to us is because the maintained sector, with its large classes, is overwhelming to many and they need a calmer and smaller environment. Parents look to do the best for their children, whatever the cost.
“Many send their children too us because state school class sizes can be overwhelming.”
The fixation of many politicians and the media to try and pull down the independent schools sector is going to be a genuine tragedy. It is such a shame because the sector is so eager to work in partnership with the maintained sector and all of this is being jeopardised.
I have read the full transcript of Sir Keir Starmer’s statement on education and in nearly every regard I applaud him for his stance on curriculum reform and levelling up.
But where I have to disagree with him is on the funding for primary schools that will come from VAT on school fees and the view that those in the independent sector are to be penalised. I have to accept this is not a policy based on economic realities but on an ideology and sadly that is something that can rarely be reasoned with.
I do wonder what is driving this latest move to further discriminate against children in independent schools. Surely access to LEA support should be assessed on the students’ need not on whether they are at a fee/non-fee paying school.
It just feels as if it is all the dialogue is going one way at the moment and that whatever independent schools do to promote opportunity is going to be lost.
It is such a tragedy when political agendas supersede the well-being of our children and that is sadly what is happening here.