Headteacher hits back at claim Highgate School does not do enough to support state sector

The headteacher of a prominent independent school has hit back at claims that it does not do enough to support pupils in the state sector.

Adam Pettitt, of Highgate School in North Road, responded after comments by chief Ofsted inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference on October 2.

Sir Michael, the first chief inspector to address the conference, accused independent schools, including Highgate, of offering “crumbs from the table” to struggling state schools and urged private schools to sponsor academies.

Mr Pettitt defended his school and told the Ham&High: “I felt sorry for the chief inspector because he was clearly badly advised.

“My disagreement with him was that he’d used Highgate as an example of schools which do worthy things but which are not doing enough, and that the best way of doing something is to run an academy.

“We are involved in three academies and a free school but we also do other things which seem to me to be just as worthy and less bureaucratic; for example our partnership teaching.”

Mr Pettitt continued: “My feeling of indignation emerged from being accused of not doing enough when I feel that we try very hard to do as much as we possibly can.”

Most Read

Highgate prides itself on having one of the most active programmes of outreach activities among the north London independent sector.

It is involved with the Crest Academies in Neasden and co-sponsors Hartsbrook Free School in Tottenham Hale.

The school runs free summer programmes for state sector children and ongoing programmes to help with literacy.

It also participates in outreach teaching, sending its physics, chemistry and maths teachers into state schools to work with gifted children and work on curriculum development and teacher support in these subjects.

The school has employed extra teachers in order to provide the outreach programmes raising money through donations.

The comprehensive-educated headteacher said schools such as his are not “offering crumbs from the table” as described by Sir Michael.

“There are programmes which schools like ours find very attractive to do, something which our pupils like to help with, our teachers want to help with and it’s a win-win situation and relatively straightforward to provide the opportunities,” said Mr Pettitt. “It’s about partnership, it’s critical.”

But he welcomed both Sir Michael and education secretary Michael Gove’s comments that “solutions” are needed to deal with “inequalities” in education.

“I find that a really invigorating and inspiring message which is probably why I was so cross,” said Mr Pettitt.

“We are all in the business of trying to do the best job we can for the children we have in our care, or any other children we can help.”