“Debate ignores how Scotland has done things differently”
John Edward, Director of Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS) responds to the recent Labour Party Conference (21 September) vote on abolishing independent schools, by asking policymakers to redirect the current debate and follow Scotland’s lead.
SCIS – an educational umbrella group – promotes choice, diversity and excellence in Scottish education, representing more than 70 independent schools. Speaking following the decision taken at the UK Labour Party Conference to pass a motion calling for the eventual abolition of independent schools, John Edward, Director of SCIS, said:
“Even a cursory glance at the sector in Scotland, and developments since devolution would show anyone in the UK how different this debate can be, and how much can change without abolishing the sector.
“In 2005, the Scottish Parliament passed unanimously what remains a unique, formal test of public benefit for independent schools. Schools’ charitable status. Designed by a Labour-Lib Dem coalition government and established by law, the test has seen means-tested fee assistance become the default for schools, with the overall amount more than tripling to over £30 million per year.
“At the same time, shared academic and sports resources, careers events, facilities, music and arts provision have all been audited to establish the place of independent schools in their communities. All of this widening of access has happened while schools continue to encourage high attainment and positive leaver destinations from pupils of all interests and abilities.
“Rather than discussing the wholescale dismantling of a historic and complementary system, described by Scottish ministers as part of the “rich tapestry of Scottish education”, policymakers could look at what works, what is achievable, and what makes a genuine difference to young people’s lives.”