Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Schools ‘fuelling divisions between rich and poor pupils’

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The Telegraph, 11/09/13

The education system is fuelling a “social apartheid” in which pupils from relatively wealthy backgrounds fail to mix with their poorer peers, a leading headmaster has warned.

Anthony Seldon, the Master of Wellington College, Berkshire, said that too many schools were split along class lines in a move that did “nothing to diminish segregation in our society”.

Large numbers of pupils from fee-paying school are denied the chance to interact with those educated in the state system, he suggested.

David Levin, the headmaster of City of London School, also warned that inner-city areas were being turned into “silo societies” in which children inhabit their own “narrow ethnic, faith and income groups” without mixing with outsiders.

The comments were made as a survey of more than 2,000 adults raised concerns over levels of segregation in the current education system.

More than two-thirds of people polled by the charity The Challenge Network claimed that the structure of the education system led to “social divisions”.

Some 37 per cent thought that fee-paying schools stood in the way of social mobility and seven-in-10 believed privately-educated pupils could benefit from mixing with peers from other schools, it emerged.

The charity currently helps run the Government’s National Citizen Service for 16-year-olds, giving pupils the chance to take part in a series of physical challenges, team activities and community projects to make a “positive contribution” to their local area.

Speaking as the poll was published, Dr Seldon, said: “The current school system in the UK does effectively nothing to diminish segregation in our society. The lack of mixing and interaction between those that attend private and state schools helps fuel a social apartheid that has gone unaddressed for too long.

“We have a responsibility to future generations to bridge our two tier education system and work towards ending our class division to mutual benefit.

“A healthy nation is one where each child, regardless of background, can see their potential fulfilled, and their gifts fully embraced and rewarded by society.”

Mr Levin added: “Throughout our cities silo societies inhabit their own narrow ethnic, faith and income groups.

“London increasingly looks like Johannesburg where West Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, Pakistanis, Bengalis, Portuguese and white working class communities live in concentrated mono-cultural groups.

“My concern is we are going to have segregated societies with young people who do not know anyone from other groups.”

Many schools are helping to bridge the traditional divide between the independent and state sectors by supporting the Government’s academies programme.

Wellington College was the first independent school to set up and manage its own academy – a state school run free of local authority control. City of London School also supports an academy, alongside around 30 other independent schools including Sevenoaks, Dulwich, Marlborough, Malvern, Winchester, Uppingham and Oundle.

Speaking earlier this year, Lord Adonis, the former Labour Schools Minister, called on all fee-paying schools to get involved with academies, adding: “It is seriously disabling for students going to exclusive fee-paying schools that they see so little of society.”

But the comments enraged many other independent school leaders who insisted their schools were already taking large number of poor pupils on bursaries and taking part in partnership programmes with the state system.

Craig Morley, chief executive and co-founder of The Challenge Network, said: “The relationships people form in their school years have a defining impact on their lives. The lack of interaction between pupils from private and state schools is leading to worryingly high levels of segregation.”

“It is crucial that young people are given opportunities to spend time and share experiences with people that are different to themselves.”

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