Choice of schooling 'is moral decision'

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PARENTS who chose to make sacrifices to send their children to fee-paying schools were making a moral decision, the headmaster of a leading independent school said yesterday.

Roy Chapman, head of Malvern School and chairman of the Headmasters' Conference, later backtracked at a press conference and explained that he did not mean that those who decided not to make the sacrifices were making an immoral decision.

But Vivian Anthony, secretary to the conference, said: 'Parents who put themselves before their children might well be said to be behaving less morally.'

Mr Chapman told 238 public school heads in Bournemouth that independent schools should provide the moral lead that church and state had failed to give. Politicians and sportsmen who are caught telling untruths or committing sexual indiscretions should resign at once, he said. He cited Mike Atherton, the England cricket captain, and said he should have resigned after he failed to tell the whole truth about dirt in his pocket during a Test match. However, he believed Atherton was an honourable man and Mr Chapman would not have minded if his resignation had not been accepted.

David Mellor, a former Secretary of State for National Heritage, and Tim Yeo, a former environment minister, should also have resigned at once after their affairs were revealed. 'Is not there something profoundly wrong with our values when there is a public debate about whether or not leaders of our country, be they senior politicians, civil servants, servicemen or sportsmen should resign if they have been caught in an untruth or indiscretion.'

Later he added: 'The Church seems prepared to accept anything except intolerance, while the Government seems to operate on the basis of political expediency rather than on coherent policies, much less principle.' There was a gaping moral vacuum that independent schools had a duty to fill.