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'Stop bashing private schools', says independent school headteacher

PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:21 27 September 2019

Jon Perriss, Langley School headmaster, says private education can help to bring down social barriers rather than building them.  Photo: Tim Stephenson Photography

Jon Perriss, Langley School headmaster, says private education can help to bring down social barriers rather than building them. Photo: Tim Stephenson Photography

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A new Norfolk headteacher has dismissed the Labour party's assertion that the UK education system would be better off without private schools.

But Jon Perriss, who took over as headmaster of Langley School this month, said some independent institutions could do more to moderate "patronising" language towards their state-funded counterparts.

It came as Labour party conference delegates voted to include a pledge to abolish private education in its next election manifesto - a proposal which would see private schools' charitable status removed and their assets redistributed to the state sector.

Mr Perriss said: "Bashing private schools like Eton is easy, but it is cerebrally weak.

"A lot of children here [at Langley] are supported on scholarships and bursaries. We want to increase our number of bursaries to help children who would otherwise not be able to come here.

Langley School. Photo: Steve AdamsLangley School. Photo: Steve Adams

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"It could be because they are anxious and have a need for small class sizes, or if they have a particular talent but cannot afford to come.

"Our colleagues in state education are doing brilliant work, but we have to break down barriers. If we are looking at the national picture of the effects of Trumpism and building walls, we in education need to do the opposite of that: to celebrate diversity and see it as a strength rather than a weakness."

Mr Perriss said Langley School, which educates around 850 children in its senior and prep schools, had good connections with local state schools but that there was more work to be done.

"We are all interested in educating children, so it is about making sure we are all heading the same way but using expertise from different places. It would be arrogant to assume we know everything," he said.

Before moving to Langley Mr Perriss was a senior leader at Christ's School in Horsham, which he said was an exemplar of how the private education sector could break down social barriers.

"In terms of social mobility and accessing education from deprived backgrounds it is a national leader - 75pc of students are on bursaries," he said.

During his independent school career Mr Perriss, whose wife is from Norfolk, spent 16 years at the single-sex Tonbridge School in Kent and three years at the Norwich School, as well as teaching at a collegiate school in New Zealand where Prince Edward spent a gap year.

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