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Independent Schools

Volume 578: debated on Monday 24 March 2014

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate the important role that independent schools play in raising education standards in this country, and does he applaud the enormous contribution that fee-paying parents make in investing in our education system?

I take a close interest in the success of England’s independent schools. In particular, I reinforce the point that my hon. Friend makes. Those parents who support independent schools are supporting not just a great education for their own children. In many cases—for example, with schools such as Wellington and Eton college—they are also supporting improved state education by sponsoring free schools, which would not exist if Labour came to power. I stress that the head teachers of independent schools appreciate the changes being made to the state sector. Only this weekend the headmaster of King’s College school in Wimbledon pointed out that the state sector “has really improved” under this Government—so much so that it is totally different from the situation that prevailed 10 years ago under Labour.

I declare an interest as a governor of an independent school. Will my right hon. Friend in his various discussions promote the placing of looked-after and vulnerable children in boarding-school education, not least because this produces better results for them in examinations and better outcomes in life, and it is also considerably cheaper than the alternative?

I absolutely agree. The role that independent schools play in making sure that children from vulnerable backgrounds have access to boarding education is to be applauded, but it is vital that we stress that there are superb state boarding schools as well, and that there are a growing number of state schools providing excellent facilities for children from the most fragile of circumstances to flourish. It is important that we should recognise that whatever the type of school helping a vulnerable child, the actions of those who lead it should be applauded.