Share

Academies programme 'will help private schools prove public benefit'

Dr Anthony Seldon, master, Wellington College
News

Academies programme 'will help private schools prove public benefit'1

Governance | Tania Mason | 2 May 2012

The recent trend of charitable independent schools establishing state school academies will help them demonstrate beyond doubt that they provide sufficient public benefit under charity law, according to Dr Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College.

Dr Seldon delivered a compelling speech about the benefits of academies to a schools legal conference organised by law firm Lee Bolton Monier-Williams yesterday.

Wellington College has already established its own state-school academy and recently hired James O’Shaughnessy, David Cameron’s former policy chief, to spearhead the establishment of a whole chain within the Wellington ‘family’.

Asked by civilsociety.co.uk whether sponsoring academies might help put paid to the suspicion that independent school don’t provide enough public benefit, Dr Seldon replied: “I think it would help. They don’t do it for that reason, that’s not the motivation, but yes it would help.”

‘Jesus Christ would have approved of academies’

Seldon listed seven common objections from colleagues within the independent sector to the academy programme, and then set about dismissing them.  At one point he invoked Jesus Christ to support his case.

He said that getting involved in the academies programme is “particularly incumbent on Christian schools because I don’t think that Jesus would have approved of our independent schools which were socially removed from the rest of the nation. Jesus would have been very much on the academies bandwagon.”

He said independent schools could learn a huge amount from the state school sector, and declared: “Frankly, you don’t have to know very much about leading schools to lead an independent school.  That’s the elephant in the room.

“When you’ve got 30-odd kids in a state school classroom and most of them don’t even want to be there, you have to really know how to teach.  When you’ve got 12 children in a class who are quite bright and quite well motivated, it’s a different style of teaching but you could learn a great deal from those who have to really see teaching as a skilled art form.”

Bursaries morally questionable

Dr Seldon also attacked the objection that independent schools already do enough for poorer kids by providing bursaries.  “Bursaries are ok, but are only a micro-solution because they are only ever going to affect a very small number.”  He added that bursaries were morally questionable, because they remove the brightest children from the very schools that desperately need good students.  He recalled how the morale of a whole rugby team at a local comprehensive collapsed after their best player was awarded a bursary to a public school and left.  The rest of the team stopped playing and eventually disbanded.

Dr Seldon called on the various independent sector umbrella bodies, such as the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools and the National Grammar Schools Association, to form units to help schools set up and run academies.  Such units would advise schools on the legal, administrative, HR and other back-office work that is required.

Only available to the super-rich

In response to a question from the floor about whether he agreed with recent comments in the national media from Dr Martin Stephen, high master of St Paul’s Boys School, that independent schools are becoming the preserve of the super-rich, Dr Seldon agreed he is “partly right”.

Fee income has risen but this is because teachers’ salaries have, quite rightly, risen, and the costs involved in running a school are very high, he said. 

But that is not to say that only the super-rich can afford to send their children there, he added.  Fees are still within the means of a two-parent family where both parents are in professional work and have incomes of more than £30,000, and perhaps get some financial help from the grandparents, he said.

Hilary Barnard
Principal Consultant
HBMC
2 May 2012

Dr. Seldon is an accomplished trend setter. His ideas may well become the recommended path for charitable independent schools managing their public benefit obligations - essentially outsourcing the public benefit to academies. The court's recent judgement in interpreting public benefit clearly allows consideration of many more ways in which the public benefit obligations can be met, so it is natural there should be discussion.
The head at St.Paul's was right to say that fees now charged by independent schools iincreasingly make them the preserve of the super rich. Outsourcing public benefit obligations to academies, which will be at the expense of increasing access for those unable to afford the fees, will tend to make independent schools more removed from the rest of society. This is unfortunate as Dr.Seldon has always appeared to want to do more in his school than the absolute minimum in meeting public benefit obligations, unlike some independent school heads.
I'm not sure Dr.Seldon's approach is good news for other charities, who have sought in the recent debate on 'charity tax', to demonstrate how money for charities is really going to tackle social disadvantage. Of course, Dr.Seldon will argue that students in the academies from disadvantaged backgrounds will benefit from the contribution of the independent schools. That is true. The problem is that the independent school itself will be an unreformed institution providing for the super rich yet getting the benefit of charitable status.

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Free eNews

Former Thomas Cook boss donates £3m to charity over hotel deaths

28 May 2015

Former Thomas Cook chief executive Harriet Green said she will donate more than £3m of a £10m shares...

Big Lottery Fund awards £7m to Plan UK and Save the Children to help rebuild typhoon-struck communities

28 May 2015

The Big Lottery Fund will award more than £7m to two UK charities to help rebuild communities in the...

Grant Thornton assistant manager jailed for more than three years over £726,000 charity embezzlement

27 May 2015

A former assistant manager at Grant Thornton has been jailed for 40 months after embezzling more than...

Grayling: government will act to stop ‘gross exploitation’ of elderly people following Olive Cooke case

28 May 2015

The government will "bring forward measures to address issues in the charity sector" following the death...

Dispatches considers second investigation into charity fundraisers

28 May 2015

Channel 4 current affairs programme Dispatches is considering another investigation into fundraising,...

British Heart Foundation's Mending Broken Hearts appeal raises £25m in four years

27 May 2015

A British Heart Foundation campaign to fund new research into heart defects has raised £25m over the...

Charity chief executives and trustees 'lack leadership' on digital technology, says report

28 May 2015

A "lack of brave leadership" is holding the sector back from exploiting digital technologies, according...

One-fifth of charities surveyed do not accept donations through their own websites

27 May 2015

Some 20 per cent of charities do not accept donations via their own websites, and 38 per cent are not...

Children's Society and NSPCC to improve their digital services

26 May 2015

The Children's Society and NSPCC both said last week they plan to revamp digital services for young people,...

Join the discussion

Twitter
 
Training

Attending our one day courses is a highly effective way of ensuring new and existing trustees fully understand their role, responsibilities and liabilities.

>> Find out more <<