Teaching by example, not in “splendid isolation”!

You may have read Anthony Seldon’s words in the Guardian last weekend: http://bit.ly/NVogdC.
Seldon’s sweeping statement ‘most governing bodies don’t want to bond with state schools’ is patronising and untrue. It is generalisations like this, politically pitched and delivered with breath-taking arrogance, that can only serve to damage the good work of schools like ours; frustrate the staff and governing bodies that are working so hard to reach out to the state sector; and discourage state schools from accepting the help so readily offered.

What’s more, it is wholly wrong to categorise all independent schools together, whatever the context. To say that ‘British independent schools in the 21st century have lost their moral purpose’ is insulting and totally misrepresentative of the exceptional work and commitment shown by many individuals and teams of professional teaching practitioners.

Each and every independent school has its own guiding principles. Our school’s unique culture and ethos, along with many other great schools of a similar profile, has evolved to match the needs and desires of both our external and internal communities. The school cannot simply be lumped together with all other independent schools for the convenience and impact of Mr Seldon’s sweeping statements. To do this is to miss the complexity of value that individual schools give to the communities which they ‘serve’.

Schools such as ours have been firmly rooted in their cities and rural communities for decades. We are a part of the living, breathing entity that is Cambridge and Cambridgeshire and, as such, it is second nature and engrained in our ethos that we give back through so much of what we do. We already work closely with state schools in less privileged areas through our Outreach Programme, sharing our resources and facilities, and engaging their students with our own in truly worthwhile and inspiring mentored activities. We also work with local charities, community groups and businesses. In this way, we aim to reach young people from all backgrounds and in many different education establishments, and inspire them to aspire to achieve. It never has been or will be our aim to go into ‘splendid isolation’ as Seldon’s sensationalist headline suggests!

To imply, as Seldon does, that the ‘moral purpose’ of a school such as ours can be captured and satisfied in the sponsoring of an academy is ridiculous and patronising to the practitioners who devote much of their time and energy to programmes that reach outside of the confines of the school. Our firm belief, that with privilege comes responsibility, is disseminated through all of our activities. I’m proud to say that we teach by example and this resonates with our students, giving them a sense of belonging and excitement in community duty.

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