Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320-329)|
7 MAY 2008
Q320 Fiona Mactaggart: Have the Charities
Act 2006 and Government policy reduced what you call the cold
Chris Parry: I think that it has
produced a flash point along the Berlin wall. I think that it
has heightened tensions, because it has made people very nervous
about what regulation might do to the independent sector, and
it looks like a missile aimed from the maintained sector into
the independent sector.
Q321 Fiona Mactaggart: What has the
maintained sector got to do with it?
Chris Parry: Most of the people
who are baying for the independent schools to do more and putting
around interpretations that even the Charity Commission does not
talk about come from the maintained sector. I tell you that there
is a lot of prejudice, particularly in initial teacher training.
If you go into the independent sector, there is bullying and all
sorts of influence to stop people going to the independent sector.
That sort of thing has got to stop. We are a single community,
and the idea of privilege and wealth
Q322 Chairman: What is the evidence
for that? As Chairman of this Committee, I have never heard of
that before. What is the evidence for that bullying?
Chris Parry: The evidence is research
done by my organisation into last year's outtake from initial
teacher training. I can forward that to the Committee.
Chairman: We would appreciate that.
Fiona Mactaggart: I used to be a teacher
educator, and I do not recall any such bullying. However, we will
leave that there.
Mr Stuart: With your views, that is perhaps
Q323 Fiona Mactaggart: I am concerned
about your view that the Charities Act 2006 has been a flashpoint.
It seemed to me that the duty on schools to show that they do
not exclude the broader public, which might not be able to afford
the fees, from benefiting from their activities should be quite
a gentle pressure towards more collaboration. I do not quite understand
why it has not been. Many schools have always accepted the concept
of public benefit.
Chris Parry: Again, I would say
that we are still in a consultation phase. The guidelines from
the Charity Commission are very confused. In my experience, where
there is confusion, there will always be nervousness and antagonism.
The friction that is happening is not helpful to the debate.
Q324 Fiona Mactaggart: So your problem
is with the guidance, not with the principle.
Chris Parry: The principle of
Fiona Mactaggart: Of public benefit having
to be shown by those who benefit from the tax release under the
Charities Act 2006.
Chris Parry: I have absolutely
no problem with the 2006 Act saying that public benefit must be
demonstrated, but I am afraid that, currently, it is the discretion
that the Charity Commission has arrogated to itself to provide
the interpretation of the Act that is causing the problem.
Q325 Fiona Mactaggart: It is still
draft guidance. This is the second draft, is it not?
Chris Parry: Yes, but in all our
dealings with the Charity Commission, the guidance did not accord
with the discussions that had taken place.
Q326 Fiona Mactaggart: So it is cheating?
Chris Parry: No, it may simply
be thinking one thing and talking to us on a different level.
We do not know. Until the guidelines come out properly on 11 July,
anything that I say on this is pure opinion.
Chairman: It sounds like Frankie Howerd's,
"Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!"
Chris Parry: Of course we are
nervous because of the open-ended discretion that seems to be
applied. I am concerned about schools such as Winchester and Eton,
against which all other schools will be judged. We have no assurance
that any sort of flexibility or agility in that regard will be
in place. If you put a large public school as the benchmark, many
schools will not be able to meet those criteria. Vast numbers
of people will not be able to afford the education that is given
at those schools if charity status is not sustained.
Chairman: One last question, Fiona, because
we must move to the next session.
Q327 Fiona Mactaggart: I have a question
for Professor Green. You talked about the proportion of advantage
that those who had been to independent schools accrued in their
later employment. I am still concerned about how you know that
that is a causation and not a correlation.
Professor Green: The answer is
that it is never 100% certain that it is not a correlation. We
are pretty sure because we control for a lot of things. In this
study we controlled for family background, for cognitive and non-cognitive
abilities at the age of five and for other things. In controlling
for those things, we were being statistical in looking at the
relationship between people who have been to private schools and
those who have not and in looking at their wages later. That is
a standard procedure in econometrics. There are all sorts of caveats
that one needs to bring to bear; but, frankly, a Committee such
as this is not the place to bring them out. I can none the less
assure you that the evidence is pretty robust. It stands up to
different ways of looking at it. We have done it through three
separate data sets, all of which are nationally representative,
so it is not just the quirks of one particular set. My general
answer to the question is that we are as sure as we normally can
be about making such statements.
Q328 Mr Stuart: There is a lot of
concern about Diplomas. Someone from Edexcel or OCR said that
they were the most complicated qualification that they had ever
seen, and there is concern about the speed of implementation.
What involvement do your members have with the new Diplomas? Can
you throw any light on their likely success or otherwise? The
Committee is committed to seeing the Diplomas succeed.
Chris Parry: With your licence,
Chairman, may I put it on record that for various reasons we dispute
the figures that you just heard about from Professor Green?
Chairman: On record.
Chris Parry: Diplomas are a new
initiative. Our members are looking at the moment to see where
they would apply. We have some capacity for innovative thinking
and taking the initiative. You know that we are looking at Cambridge
Pre-U, international baccalaureate and a lot of other things,
including Diplomas, to see how they might fit in. They may be
suitable for some schools, but you are right that they are a complex
mix of practical and academic subjects. Some schools have indicated
that they would welcome the content and curriculum of some Diplomas.
We would like to see how they bed in with some of our other qualifications,
but most schools have indicated that the classic GCSE, IGCSE and
A-level provision remains at the moment a benchmark off which
they do not want to wander unless they see the tangible benefits
of going into the Diplomas.
Q329 Mr Stuart: On joining partnerships,
Diplomas are not being delivered by single institutions. Are some
of your members joining in with other schools, perhaps in the
maintained sector, to deliver them?
Chris Parry: They are exploring
the possibilities with those schools and further education colleges.
The biggest problem at the moment is the 10-day practical requirement,
which means that people will need to move around quite a bit.
We are exploring it. We are adopting a positive approach and seeing
when it can benefit our individual schools.
Chairman: That was a very interesting
session. We have appreciated your answers to our questions, Professor
Green and Chris Parry, so thank you. We will continue this inquiry,
so if you did not get the chance to answer fully some of our questions
or if there are question that we should have asked but did not,
please contact the Committee.
Chris Parry: I will pass you the
data that you want.
5 Note from witness: TES, November 2007.
Also, ISC bulletin, April 2008:
http://www.isc.co.uk/publication_8_0_0_31_345.htm independent_sector_survey Back
Note from witness: This is not quite right. 11 July is
the deadline for response to the current draft guidelines. The
next and probably final set should be published in the final quarter. Back