Norfolk independent school heads hit out at Labour threat over tax breaks

Steffan Griffiths Photo: Steve Adams

Steffan Griffiths Photo: Steve Adams

Labour plans to force public schools to 'come down from on high' to share their teachers would drive state schools mad, a leading Norwich headmaster has claimed.

Steffan Griffiths, headmaster of Norwich School, hit out at shadow education secretary Tristran Hunt's language in a speech setting out plans to strip private schools of valuable tax breaks, which he said implied that independent schools were not already working with the state sector and the wider community.

He said Norwich School had already helped thousands of state school pupils get into university through its summer school, and it had links with lots of different schools for sport, music, drama and joint lectures.

Dominic Findlay, headmaster of Langley School in Loddon, agreed Labour had failed to recognise 'stunning work' by the independent sector, adding: 'Not to even recognise that is disappointing.'

In a keynote speech today, Mr Hunt told private schools in England they would lose business rates relief - worth an estimated £700 million over the course of a parliament - unless they were prepared to meet minimum standards of partnership with their state counterparts.

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He said that a Labour government would legislate to ensure the schools only qualify for this 'subsidy' if they pass a new 'schools partnership standard'.

Under this system, private schools would be required to provide teachers in specialist subjects to state schools, and to share expertise to help state school pupils get into top universities.

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The will also have to run joint extra-curricular programmes with state schools as equal partners so that children from the state and private sectors mix together and learn from each other.

But Mr Findlay said: 'If we lost our status, it would have an impact. My parents are already paying taxes for the state sector.'

He said that while he did not believe it would put his school's future in jeopardy, smaller independent schools could be forced to close.

'Where are these children going to go? There is not the quantity of state schools to handle vast numbers of children that would need to be schooled,' he added.

Mr Griffiths, who is also a governor at City Academy in Norwich, said: 'For Tristram Hunt to talk about formal partnership links worries me because there is a danger that a lot of good work that happens on the ground will be missed. 'The idea we must give qualified teachers to state schools in specialist subjects does imply superiority in the independent sector that I think state schools would be very upset about it.'

'The idea that we would be coming down from on high to give the benefit of our wisdom would rightly drive them mad,' he added.

'It frustrates me there is a suggestion that politicians will say what is, and what is not, acceptable, rather than listening to what schools on both sides would say is helpful to them. And working with schools on both sides to develop that and improve further.'

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