Leading article: Not what state schools need

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The Independent Online

There is nothing wrong with state schools seeking advice from Eton College if they want to set up new boarding facilities for their students. Equally, though, there is nothing to suggest that they would necessarily get any better advice than if they had consulted one of the already existing state boarding schools. Indeed, some would say up-and-running state boarding schools might be better placed in helping them to deal with the kind of problems they are going to face.

Contrary to David Cameron's assertion that there is an "apartheid" between the state and private sectors of education, it seems to us that there has been a veritable gushing of initiatives to set up partnerships between the two. Some of this is altruistic but some has been motivated by the Charity Commission's close scrutiny of whether independent schools deserve to retain their charitable status.

One can see the advantage, say, of independent schools like Eton opening up some of their mouthwatering sporting facilities to their state school neighbours – as has happened with Eton's boating lake being made available to pupils from Slough and Eton Church of England College. Equally, at a time when state schools might be too strapped for cash to employ a wide range of specialist teachers in minority subjects like Latin and (sadly these days) modern foreign languages, one can see the advantage of seconding a teacher from a private school to cover these subjects – or allowing local state school pupils to take part in lessons at the private school.

However, to suggest that – because independent schools get better results than their state school counterparts – there is something magical about their DNA that will rub off on disadvantaged inner-city schools if only the two are brought together is wrong. Someone like Sir Michael Wilshaw, principal of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney –which was established on the site of a failing comprehensive in the London borough and is now sending pupils to Oxbridge – is much better placed to furnish them with the inspiration and information they need.