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Trinity School head questions Labour's plans to remove business rates relief from private schools

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THE head teacher of one of Croydon's top independent schools has questioned Labour's plans to remove business rates relief from private schools which do not do enough to help those in the state sector.

Trinity School headmaster Mark Bishop said the policy could be seen as "patronising" and would unfairly penalise smaller schools which lack the resources to do outreach work.

He was responding to plans announced by shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, who said many private schools were not earning the "subsidy".

Sarah Jones, the party's prospective Parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central, backed the idea this week and said a review was needed to determine whether the borough's 23 independent schools could be doing more.

The Whitgift Foundation, which runs three independent schools in Croydon, said it provides in excess of £5 million a year in bursaries and scholarships, with around 1,300 pupils receiving financial assistance toward their fees.

Mr Bishop said Trinity School, part of the foundation, offers extensive support to state schools, which have access to facilities such as its swimming pool and theatre, as well as tuition and activities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects. In January the school will invite students at Quest Academy, in Selsdon, to join its Combined Cadet Force.

He told the Advertiser: "Should there be strong partnerships between independent and state schools? Absolutely yes, though there's a lot more to it than simply a private school becoming an academy sponsor.

"At a local level I think there a lot of work between the sectors, which can only be a good thing.

"But, I hate the impression that the only partnership is an independent school helping a state school. That seems rather patronising.

"Often we in the independent sector have a huge amount to learn from schools in the state system."

It is estimated that around £147 million a year across more than 1,250 schools could be under threat from Mr Hunt's policy. Mr Bishop agrees it would hurt smaller private schools which don't have the Whitgift Foundations resources.

"There is a world of difference between a school like Trinity, which has a large number of staff and available facilities that is able to lend out, compared with a smaller prep school which has few staff and doesn't have the capacity to work in partnership," he explained.

"That was my concern with the announcement. It seems one-size-fits-all and I don't think it is a helpful way to move forward .

"I fear it could be a tick box exercise which won't do what we really want, which is to encourage more partnerships between the state and private sectors."

Sarah Jones, who attended former Old Palace of John Whitgift, another of the foundation's schools, said assessing whether independent schools offered value for money was one way of helping to raise standards in education.

"I think we should look at what they are doing and see what they could be doing more of," she said.

Asked if she thought private schools should lose business rates relief if found not to be doing enough, she said: "Obviously I agree with our policy, completely.

"I suspect there will be different stories with each school in Croydon. Some of them will be doing a lot, others will be doing less and should be doing more.

"Some will have quite big subsidies on their fees but there might be more they could do in terms of making their facilities available and their teachers helping out at other schools.

"There's more that could be done, I'm sure of it."

Trinity School head questions Labour's plans to remove business rates relief from private schools


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