Camden state school heads speak out in support of local independent schools

William Ellis School headteacher Sam White with students on GCSE results day in August. Picture: Pol

William Ellis School headteacher Sam White with students on GCSE results day in August. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Headteachers at Camden state schools have praised the support offered to them by local independent schools in the wake of damning criticism of the independent sector from the shadow education secretary.

Labour’s Tristram Hunt faced a backlash from the headteacher of his old independent secondary University College School (UCS) last week when he announced his party’s plans to strip independent schools of their current tax breaks if they do not sufficiently support state schools.

UCS headteacher Mark Beard accused Mr Hunt of “offensive bigotry” over his party’s new policy.

This week, headteachers at several Camden state schools have spoken out in support of their independent counterparts locally, which receive business rate relief from the council as charitable organisations.

Sam White, headteacher of William Ellis School, in Highgate Road, said Mr Hunt was right to clampdown on independent schools that fail to support the state sector but insisted many were very supportive, pointing to Highgate School, in North Road, as a shining example.

“I know some independent schools definitely live up to their charitable status,” said Mr White. “Some do offer extensive opportunities for state students.

“They do have better facilities than we do and they offer better staff development opportunities. We value the support from Highgate School, in my experience that’s the only independent school that works with us.

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“Sometimes it implies that there are no expertise in the state sector which is not the case but we are not resourced to the same extent.”

Maureen Williams, headteacher of La Sainte Union Catholic School, in Highgate Road, also praised Highgate School’s partnership with La Sainte Union.

She said: “We are very impressed with range of support and collaboration with Highgate School as part of our specialist science provision.”

John Dowd, headteacher of Haverstock School, Labour leader Ed Miliband’s former secondary in Chalk Farm, said the school had no current links with independent schools but would welcome them in the future.

“We have had a number of links with local independent schools during my time as head. I would welcome the opportunity to work in collaboration with local independent schools, as we have in the past.”

Writing exclusively in today’s Ham&High, Mr Hunt praised King Alfred School, in Golders Green, his former school UCS and Highgate School – describing it as a “national leader” – for their support of local state schools.

He also hit back at Mr Beard’s criticism of his announcement, saying: “Mark Beard might call that ‘offensive bigotry’. I would call it a simple request that all private schools meet their social obligations.”

In a letter written to the Ham&High, Tom Youlden, who taught economics at UCS for nearly 25 years, said: “I did not teach Mr Hunt when he was a student at UCS, but good luck to him.

“The right-wing press will call this class war, I call it an attempt to re-balance the inequality of opportunity for so many of our children in the UK at the present time.”