Letter: Schools' high moral duty

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article of 27 August hopes that relations between independent schools and the Labour government will be those of "beneficial engagement". I agree, which is why I said in my opening address to the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools: "We welcome the new administration's talk of partnership ... We must embrace that offer and play our part in raising overall standards of education in this country."

If we do manage to construct a beneficial partnership, it will be no thanks to your distortion of the main part of my speech. I neither said nor implied that independent schools "hold the key to morality". I twice acknowledged that independent schools had no monopoly in this territory. Indeed, I gave examples of areas - in behaviour on the sports field, for example - where we have failed the high standards we set ourselves. I urged the Government to learn from good practice in "both maintained and independent schools".

I take particular exception to the implication that prep schools will not welcome the children of divorced parents. As a child of divorced parents myself, I feel well-qualified personally to draw attention to the life- long effects of divorce upon children - something all schools, not just prep schools, need to be aware of and compensate for.

My central concern, however, is one which I am sure exercises most of my colleagues in both independent and state schools. In a society where many moral and cultural norms are collapsing or being challenged, unreasonable expectations are being placed on schools. Education does not take place in a vacuum, and it is clearly not just a matter of measurable academic outcomes. Schools cannot but be concerned about the effects on children of pervasive materialism in the media or of the widespread disintegration of family stability.

Ways in which independent schools can compensate for these factors may be among the issues the new government would be well advised to study more closely.



Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools

Leamington Spa,