Head of £30,000 a year private school defends charitable status following comments by Lord Adonis that independent sector is not fulfilling its ‘moral mission’

Independent schools should not be forced into helping academies and can justify their charitable status in better ways, according to the headmaster of Stowe School.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 14th November 2012, 11:03 am

Dr Anthony Wallersteiner was responding to comments made by Lord Adonis, the former Labour schools minister, who said the independent sector must not separate itself from state education and called on it to get involved in academies.

But Dr Wallersteiner said: “My own view on academies is there are some very good ones out there already and not every private school is better than a state school and it is a bit condescending to say independent schools should come to the rescue of states schools.

“I can think of state schools that could come to the rescue of private schools.

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“While we can learn from eachother and exchange best practice they might not be interested in being sponsored.

“It’s stereotyping academies and stereotyping independent schools and I don’t think it should be forced.”

But he said Lord Adonis ‘is right that charities need to justify what they are doing’and the £29,895 per year school achieved its charitable aims in a number of different ways.

These include gifting the gardens to the National Trust, running tours of the house and taking part in community work and charity fundraising.

More than 200 pupils benefit from scholarships and bursaries worth more than £3.1million in value – last year 12 Vale children were given fully funded places while a group of youngsters from South Africa come over every year.

“Schools are all about variety and educating people to their full potential – the least interesting thing about a person is who their parents are and how much money they make. Independent schools have hardship funds as a way of allowing people who don’t have the means to still benefit from the opportunities at the school.”

He said taxpayers are also saved £4million a year by not having to pay for the education of their 773 pupils.

Most fee-paying schools are charities and the status brings tax benefits. But Dr Wallersteiner said: “We get advantages from being a charity but we have got to bring in enough income to pay for staff and the upkeep of the building. All the surplus is ploughed back into the school. There are no investors making money, no dividends being paid out, we are not a profitable company.”

Speaking ahead of the London Festival of Education, Lord Adonis said: “To those in the private school world who are reluctant to embrace academies, I appeal to their professionalism and their charitable missions.

“With each passing decade many of these schools have become more not less exclusive.

“It was excusable to stand apart from state-funded education when the state did not want them engaged in the first place. But that is the isolationist politics of the past.

“With the academies programme, supported across the political spectrum, they have an opportunity to engage in state-funded education without compromising their independence, renewing for the 21st century their essential moral and charitable purposes.

“I could go on through the founding charters of hundreds of private schools. It shouldn’t take the Charity Commission to challenge private school foundations about their charitable missions.

“Their trustees and governors should look to them constantly as a matter of conscience and duty. With each passing decade many of these schools have become more not less exclusive, and for generations now, few of them have done anything radical to reconnect with their charitable purposes.

“Most of them are seeking to provide a few more bursaries. But this is hardly enough when they could also be running academies whose central purpose is the very mission for which their assets were originally intended.”