State cash 'propping up independent schools'

SOME independent schools are surviving the recession on state subsidies, Stephen Byers, Labour MP for Wallsend, said yesterday, writes Donald MacLeod.

Under the assisted places scheme, 50 schools in England each received more than pounds 500,000 last year, according to Department for Education figures.

Four schools - Dulwich College and Latymer Upper School in London, Newcastle under Lyme School and St Edward's College, Liverpool - each benefited by more than pounds 1m from the scheme which assists families on low incomes with fees. Some of this income - a third on average - is parental contributions.

Mr Byers, former leader of the Council of Local Education Authorities, said: 'To call these schools independent is a complete misnomer. The reality is they are totally dependent on the state.'

The pounds 85m assisted places scheme is expected to subsidise 32,000 places this year. Mr Byers said: 'This is money that should be used for the benefit of all our children, not just a few.'

The Independent Schools Information Service rejected the claims: 'For most schools the loss of the assisted places scheme would be a social disaster but not a financial disaster,' a spokesman said. 'The scheme subsidises low income families, not schools.'