Headmaster rails against 'social leprosy' stigma of private school education


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The Independent Online

Parents are being made to feel guilty about sending their children to private schools because the move is increasingly likened to “social leprosy”, a leading headmaster has claimed.

Tim Hands, the head of Oxford’s Magdalen College school who takes over as chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), said it was “illogical” that that buying a house, car or holiday was seen as acceptable but paying to educate a child privately is not.

In a speech at the HMC’s annual conference in West London he said: “Why should those members of the public who so value education find that those responsible for publicly funded education do not value them?”

He cited The London Oratory School in Fulham, a state Catholic secondary school with alumni including Tony Blair and Nick Clegg. Mr Hands said that nearby houses were reportedly on sale for millions of pounds, while only a small percentage of its pupils were eligible for free lunches. Conversely, Christ’s Hospital, a fee-paying school in Horsham, West Sussex, saw the majority of pupils receive bursaries and few pay the full fees.

He added: “We are asked to believe that our schools induce a new kind of social leprosy, with one politician recently arguing that attendance at an independent school was ‘seriously disabling’.”

“The story of the last 50 years is, I suggest... the intrusion of government and the disappearance of the child..”

The comments will compound claims of a supposed ‘public school prejudice’ that came under scrutiny earlier this year when Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College, claimed discrimination against public school pupils among universities had become “the hatred that dare not speak its name”.

It came after Alexander Armstrong, the privately educated comedian, claimed that he was turned away by the BBC during the 1990s because bosses were reluctant to employ “toffs”. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch has also admitted that barbed comments about his public school past “frustrated him enough to make him want to live in America”.