The headmaster of Tristram Hunt’s old school last night accused the shadow Education Secretary of indulging in “offensive bigotry” against the independent sector.
Mark Beard, headmaster of the independent University College School (UCS) in Hampstead, north London, was angered by Mr Hunt’s warning that private schools would lose their tax breaks under a Labour government if they did not share teachers and facilities with local state schools.
Mr Hunt also called on them to end all their private-school-only sports competitions and play regular matches against local state-sector rivals, arguing that the private/state divide “corrodes our society, stifles opportunity and inflicts crippling damage upon our economy”.
But yesterday Mr Beard said: “Rather than rely on independent schools to solve the issues for the 93 per cent of children who are educated in the state sector, isn’t it time for Labour to come up with some new, helpful initiatives rather than what some might deem an offensive bigotry?”
The UCS head said that if Mr Hunt were to revisit his old school, he would find “a diverse pupil population from all creeds and backgrounds, with £1m per annum granted for fee assistance, the vast majority for 100 per cent bursaries”. Adding that it had a range of collaborations with state secondary and primary schools, he said: “If Mr Hunt wanted to tastelessly quantify the value of public benefit that UCS generates every year then he would find that it far outstrips the value of tax relief that UCS receives through its charitable status. And UCS is not alone in this regard.”
In a speech earlier yesterday, Mr Hunt said that the divide between state and private sector was “emblematic of a country run for the benefit of the privileged few, not the many” and needed to be breached.
Under Labour, all private schools would be required to sign a pledge to provide qualified teachers to help deliver specialist knowledge to state schools, assist in helping state schools get disadvantaged pupils into top universities, and run extracurricular activities where state schools were equal partners. If they failed, they would lose business rate tax relief totalling £700m during the lifetime of the next parliament.
Mr Hunt said he believed that only 3 per cent of private schools currently sponsor or co-sponsor a state academy, 5 per cent loan teaching staff to a state school, and only a third even bother to open their doors for maintained-school pupils to “attend certain lessons or other educational events”.
Mr Beard said stripping independent schools of tax exemptions “removes any pretence of encouraging those schools to play their part in society: instead they could charge whatever they wished, not bother about bursaries, not worry about pupil diversity and not share their facilities with the local community”.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies