Implications of the Education Green Paper, briefing for Independent Schools

The government has published its Green Paper, ‘Schools that work for everyone’, with consultation on the proposals now open until 12 December 2016. There are a significant number of implications for independent schools and their relationship with the state school sector.

The consultation covers proposals in four key areas:

  • Independent schools directly assisting the state-funded sector, through creating more good places, and giving more choice and control for parents.
  • Universities playing a direct role in improving school quality and pupil attainment.
  • Selective schools providing more school places, and ensuring that they are open to children from all backgrounds.
  • Faith schools delivering more good school places, while meeting strengthened safeguards on inclusivity.

Background:

  • 25 million children attending primary and secondary schools in England which are rated either requiring improvement or inadequate;
  • demographic pressure for good school places is increasing: primary pupil numbers are projected to increase by a further 4% between 2016 and 2020. Secondary pupil numbers are projected to increase by around 10% between 2016 and 2020;

Government’s proposed strategy:

  • to “radically to expand the number of good school places available to all families”
  • to give all schools “with a strong track record, experience and valuable expertise the right incentives” to expand their offer to even more pupils, driving up standards and giving parents greater control.
  • to deliver a diverse school system that gives all children, whatever their background, the opportunity to help them achieve their potential.

While the government considers itself to have successfully leveraged the experience of high performers, including multi-academy trusts, to drive improvement and expand places – i.e. through free schools, it is of the view that other education institutions have not been incentivised or have been prohibited from expanding school places. These include independent schools; Universities; selective schools; and faith schools.

Independent Schools

  • The government’s view is that “there is much more they should be doing so that children from a much wider variety of backgrounds truly benefit from the excellent education they can deliver.”
  • Independent schools could and should do more as a condition of their charitable status and the associated advantage that come with this;
  • Government proposes “setting an expectation that the best independent schools sponsor state schools and offer funded places….. while recognising that not all have the capacity and capability to act in the same way.”
  • The expectations will include that those ‘with capacity and capability; should:
    • sponsor academies or set up a new free school in the state sector; OR
    • offer a certain proportion of places as fully funded bursaries to those who are insufficiently wealthy to pay fees.
  • The revenue and capital funding would come from central government, although independent schools would be able to support these schools financially if they chose to.
  • Smaller independent schools without the capacity or capability to sponsor a school, would be asked to fulfil one of the following:
    • Provide direct school-to-school support with state schools (including potentially joining a teaching school alliance)
    • Support teaching in minority subjects which state schools struggle to make viable, such as further maths, coding, languages such as Mandarin and Russian, and classics;
    • Ensure their senior leaders become directors of multi-academy trusts;
    • Provide greater expertise and access to facilities
    • Provide sixth-form scholarships to a proportion of pupils in each year 11 at a local school;
  • It is proposed that benchmarks will be set for independent schools which reflect their size and capacity. Government will consider legislation to ensure that those independent schools that do not observe these new benchmarks cannot enjoy the benefits associated with charitable status,
  • It is proposed that the Charity Commission would reissue new guidance setting out how independent schools can meet the ‘public benefit’ test.

The full consultation document can be accessed here: https://consult.education.gov.uk/school-frameworks/schools-that-work-for-everyone/supporting_documents/SCHOOLS%20THAT%20WORK%20FOR%20EVERYONE%20%20FINAL.pdf

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