State schools forge links with private sector

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The Independent Online
PUPILS from state and independent schools will take part in 48 projects which aim to end "educational apartheid", the Government said yesterday.

Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, said that pounds 350,000 of public money would be spent on the schemes, which will bring 11,000 pupils from private and state schools together to learn subjects ranging from cricket to maths.

In a speech last November Mr Byers announced that ministers were abandoning Labour's traditional hostility to private schools. He offered them a new partnership in the crusade to raise standards. The party's manifesto before the last election spoke of the need to end "apartheid" between state and fee-paying schools.

Mr Byers insists that independent schools can learn from state schools as well as vice versa, particularly in areas such as new technology and the assessment of new pupils. He said that the Government's original offer of pounds 250,000 had been increased by pounds 100,000 after nearly 300 applications to take part in the scheme were received.

The Sutton Trust, which aims to provide educational opportunities for pupils from less-privileged backgrounds, is also spending pounds 250,000 on the scheme.

In Wakefield, Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and Wakefield High School for Girls - both fee-paying - and three state secondary schools will offer able pupils extra classes, workshops and lectures and try to encourage more pupils to apply for Oxbridge. A few state sixth-formers sitting Oxbridge entrance may have some extra lessons in independent schools but there is no question of state pupils switching to a fee-paying school to be coached for Oxbridge. That, according to John McLeod, chief education officer for Wakefield metropolitan district council, which is co-ordinating the project, would be against the whole ethos of the scheme.

"Our project is based on total sharing and on the realisation that there are particular strengths in each school," he said.

In London, Highgate and Channing schools, both private, will run a Saturday- morning scheme for able mathematicians with Gladesmore Community School in Haringey. Westminster School will offer help in maths for pupils and teachers at a nearby state secondary, the Grey Coat Hospital. Pupils from Merchant Taylors', an independent school, will help children at Greenfields primary in Hertfordshire with information technology.

Cricket coaching will also be on offer for the primary pupils. Girls from Manchester High School will help pupils from Medlock primary school with literacy at a homework club and staff from each school will teach in the other. Pupils and teachers from Bolton School (Girls) will work together with Daisy Hill (St James') primary school on a project which includes science, maths, geography and IT.

Mr Byers said that the scheme would bury old prejudices: "Old divisions have to be put to one side if we are serious about learning from what works well. Our commitment to raising standards is paramount. Independent and state schools have much to learn from each other. In the past there has been co-operation but rarely in the area of academic work."

Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said it was considering funding a number of other schemes that had been submitted.