When I hear politicians championing their latest plan to improve state education I turn my mind back a year to when I worked at a challenging London state school and ask myself: “would this policy have helped me become a better classroom teacher? Would it have reduced the piles of books to mark or solved the lack of strong leadership on discipline?”
So it’s clear that Tristram Hunt has failed to understand the measures required to improve the lot of teachers in challenging schools.
What merit is there in forcing state school teachers to collaborate with their private peers when many in the state sector don’t have enough time to eat lunch or collaborate with teachers in their own school?
The best state schools show that a great education can be achieved through high expectations, discipline and excellent teaching. So why does Labour now see independent schools as the saviour of the rest? Why does it believe that social mobility will be achieved if only private schools would play football against state schools? Of course wealthy independent schools should share their facilities and offer Oxbridge support, but the Independent Schools Association estimates that 90 per cent already do so.
At the heart of this policy appears to be a desire to rule by diktat; forcing independent schools to pass the government’s ominous collaboration-audit or face a hefty tax increase. However, when recent research from Oxford Economics, the economics forecaster, shows that the government saves an estimated £3.9 billion a year from parents who pay for their child to be educated, compared with the £165 million annual tax breaks for schools, what better argument for maintaining tax breaks for independent schools?
Will Bickford Smith is a politics teacher at an independent boarding school, and runs the Conservative Teacher Network