Examination of Witnesses (Questions 330-339)|
7 MAY 2008
Chairman: Welcome. Sorry for the bit
of overrun on that first session, but these things happen. I am
glad that you could make it. I hear that you had a delay on your
Stephen Patriarca: Not too bad.
Q330 Chairman: You are here anyway.
Both of you heard that previous session. We are looking at what
the independent sector can bring the overall education performance
of our country in terms of diversity. Do you have anything to
say about that?
Stephen Patriarca: Having heard
most of the first session, the first observation that I would
make is that I did not recognise some descriptions of the independent
sector from my experience of nearly 30 years within it. I spent
23 years at Hulme Grammar School in Oldham and since 2000 I have
been principal at William Hulme's Grammar School in Manchester.
Since last September, that school has been a city Academy. It
struck me that the character and dimension of schools such as
those and other northern grammar schools, including the Bury grammar
schools, is very different from some of the assumptions that one
might build from a knowledge, for example, of southern public
schools. It struck me forcibly, living in Oldham, that the riots
and the problems that we had in the town were deeply rooted in
the educational issues in the town. Having worked and lived in
Oldham all those years, I was very sensitive to the concerns that
people had about underachievement, particularly in the ethnic
minority populations. That is why in my school, given the stark
choices that we faced when the assisted places scheme finishedof
becoming an independent school and going for the stockbroker belt
or somehow trying to maintain our inner-city catchmentthe
Academy decision, the Academy project, was of enormous value to
us and, I hope, to the city of Manchester as well.
Q331 Chairman: We will drill down
on that in a moment, Steve. Patrick, it is always a problem
when you have a representative of a sort of trade association
in front of you. It is a difficult thing that a person sitting
in that seat is doing, because he is answering for an amalgam
of 1,200-plus schools, but you two have real knowledge of particular
institutions, so that is what we will really value from this session.
Did you get that feeling of unrealitythat we were talking
about your schools in a way that was not quite in touch with the
reality of the situation?
Patrick Derham: No, not at all.
The most important point that came across is the huge diversity
in the independent sector and how difficult it is to generalise
from a particular school or viewpoint. I have been headmaster
of a large day school just outside BirminghamSolihulland
I am now headmaster of Rugby. Those are two very different sorts
of school, but there are huge similarities between them. Certainly
from our perspective, the original invitation was for me to come
and talk to you about our commitment to widening access and the
changes that we have made to our scholarship scheme. If I may,
I shall put this in context for you. I shall briefly give some
background to the school and perhaps say a little bit about my
own story, which I think is important to understanding Rugby's
commitment in this area. With 785 pupils, the school is fully
co-educational and although 20% of the pupils are day pupils because
of our founding commitment to the local community, many people
would see Rugby as the leading co-educational boarding school
in the country. However, the key point is that Rugby has been
committed to widening access since its foundation. It was established
in 1567 by Lawrence Sheriff, who was purveyor of spices to Queen
Elizabeth I, as a free grammar school, chiefly for the boys of
Rugby and Brownsover. Through that original Lawrence Sheriff bequest,
we continue to offer local children means-tested awards of up
to 100% and help with extras. That is for anybody who lives within
10 miles of the chapel bell, which is a peculiarity of our statutes.
Currently, we have 44 pupils who are supported in that way. We
also provide endowment to the boys free grammar school within
Rugby, which the school started in the 1870s. So Rugby's founding
tradition of widening access is integral to our approach, but
my own story is important, too. For me, social mobility is not
an abstract concept. I was a boy on board the training ship Arethusa,
which was run by The Shaftesbury Homes, and I was destined to
join the Navy at the age of 16. When the ship unexpectedly closed
down in 1974, charitable support enabled me to be sent away to
an independent boarding school, Pangbourne College. That opportunity
transformed my life, and that experience has given me a passionate
belief in the transformational power of education. It has been
a driving force behind some recent initiatives that we have pioneered,
aimed at sharing Rugby education as widely as possible. I shall
give some brief examples. In 2004, we were the first school to
restrict scholarships to 10%, and at the same time we made them
augmentable to 100%, subject to means-testing, so money was being
diverted where it was needed. I have already mentioned the Lawrence
Sheriff bequest and the bursaries for day pupils, but in 2003
we established the Arnold Foundation for Rugby School to give
the same opportunities to boarding pupils. The foundation offers
100% support with fees and extras to pupils who have all-round
ability, but most importantly a real need for boarding. To help
to find those who would benefit most from that, we have established
pioneering links with charities in inner cities. I will mention
just two. One, which I suspect many of you will have heard of,
is Eastside Young Leaders Academy, and the other is Into University.
Both are London-based. I will be happy to talk more about those
in a moment. We currently have 20 Arnold Foundation pupils fully
supported in the schoolsince the first boys and girls came,
in 2004, 28 have benefited. Coincidentally, tomorrow we are celebrating
the fifth anniversary of the Arnold Foundation. We will be announcing
plans to raise £30 million, which will enable us to increase
the number of Arnold Foundation pupils in the school to 40 over
the course of the next decade. That will contribute to our overall
aim and target, that 10% of the school should be funded, either
through the Lawrence Sheriff bequest or through the Arnold Foundation.
I think that we have learned some interesting and useful lessons
about widening access in the work that we have done, which I would
be happy to share with you. I have concentrated on bursaries,
but there are other ways of improving links to the maintained
sector, and it was interesting to listen to the earlier conversation.
I would be happy to talk about two areas where we have direct
experience. One is partnership and outreach work, which we are
doing, but also our involvement in curriculum development, which
might be of interest to the Committee.
Chairman: We will drill down on those
areas in a moment.
Q332 Fiona Mactaggart: I was really
interested to hear your progress in widening access, Patrick.
One of things that I was wondering about was whether you had put
in place any mechanisms to help those pupils there on scholarships
and so on not to be seen as the odd ones out, socially and so
on. I remember the students in Pimlico School who got there on
music scholarshipsa public, maintained schoolbeing
called by their fellows the melons. They were a completely socially
separate group. I wonder what you have done about that in Rugby.
Patrick Derham: One of the key
lessons to making it work is that there has to be a real commitment.
That is partly shaped by my own experience, of course. I was taken
from a completely different environment and put into a school,
which was like going to a different planet. I was very mindful
of that. What we have done is work with these charities, which
deal with the very real issues of underachievement and social
exclusion. They help to identify people, but also provide pastoral
support in the holidays, which is important. The pastoral relationship
in the school is crucial. One of the great strengths of the independent
sector is the amount of time and effort that we put into pastoral
work. However, the boys and girls who come in on our Arnold Foundation
have two additional tutorial support as well. What is also important
is the whole family experiencewe have a parent mentor,
who works closely with the parents to help demystify the whole
process. It was interesting that you mentioned that, because we
have recently been inspected and one of our Arnold Foundation
parents wrote to the reporting inspector, completely unprompted.
I thought it would be relevant to read this little bit, given
what you said:
"My daughter has never felt uncomfortable in
telling her peers that she is an Arnold foundation pupil, and
has actually received positive comments from other pupils about
it. I have been very impressed with this, as I know of other schools
in which parents and children in receipt of a bursary have been
anxious to ensure that other pupils and parents do not know about
it. I believe that it is Rugby school's obvious pride in the Arnold
foundation and the way in which the school has given the foundation
a relatively high profile which helps to foster this openness".
To me, that is crucial. There is not a problem
with them integrating. I am sorry to be giving you such a long
answer. Again, picking up on something that Chris was saying earlier
about the diversity of the sector, mythology surrounds a school
like Rugbybut it is a remarkably broad church. There is
no homogeneity to the pupil or parent bodies. An awful lot of
our parents are making enormous sacrifices to pay the fees. We
are very conscious and mindful of that. That makes it work. Coming
back to where I started, there has to be a commitment from the
school to make this work, if that is the line that they want to
go down. Of course, it has to be what is right for each individual
Q333 Fiona Mactaggart: Have any of
your colleagues in the sector asked you about how they could model
or develop a similar approach? I have not heard the same enthusiasm
from the ISC, for example, or other schools.
Patrick Derham: Yes. Schools are
increasingly aware of what we are doing. What is important and
what I say to them is that they have to believe in it. They must
be doing it for the right reasons, and not to satisfy what they
might see as the public benefit test. Ours predates it by years,
as you heard in my opening statement. Schools are talking to us,
and we are very happy to share that experience and the other lessons
that we have learnt. The crucial thing is finding the right pupils
who will benefit, and that has been the benefit of working with
charities that are dealing with the real issues of social inclusion
and underachievement. That has been enormously satisfying, and
a corollary to that is my becoming a trustee of one of the charities,
which has strengthened the link and is an immensely rewarding
part of my job.
Q334 Fiona Mactaggart: Stephen, how
has your school changed as its status has changed?
Stephen Patriarca: The most obvious
change is that it is increasing in size. It is primarily a matter
of finance to ensure that the school is viable in the long term
and that we can offer the curricular richness that we wish to
do. That has been very effective. Other than that, it is quite
difficult to pinpoint a significant change in the sense that we
have been able to achieve a continuity of values. You must remember
that we are only in the very early stages. We are in the first
year. I am not complacent; I am aware that it will be a struggle
to maintain those values, but it can be done. The most obvious
value is aspiration. Our parents are aspirational. If you have
880 applicants for 75 places, there is immediately among parents
a sense of achievement if the child is admitted, even though the
choice is made pretty much at random, through the banding and
so on. There is still a very strong spirit of independence, and
that is what I picked up from the earlier session and what is
relevant now. Again, it is where I do not fully see the two sectors
in the way that some of the earlier descriptions have suggested.
I am not sure that the reality on the groundcertainly in
areas like Manchesteris that there are two such divisive
sectors. That is not my experience of working there over time.
It is certainly not the case with the Academies movement coming
in with the independent state schools. As for the philosophy of
independence, you are as independent as the principal of an Academy
is robust enough to be. There is strong aspiration for children
and teachers, and the commitment to breadth is part of the independent
sector DNA. For example, we have kept our combined cadet force,
our Duke of Edinburgh scheme and our outdoor pursuit centre at
Hardraw in Yorkshire. Children go in forms on a bonding weekend
or session each year. We can sustain those values at the moment.
I see no reason why we cannot sustain them as the school grows
fully into an Academy.
Q335 Fiona Mactaggart: The thing
that I have heard from you that is most different from what I
heard from at least one of our previous witnesses is that neither
of you seems to feel bullied by anyone. Both of you seem to be
confident in what you are doing; the stuff that the Government
are doing or other schools are doing is not getting in your way
and you think that you are doing it well. Have I got that right,
or is someone doing something that you do not like, bullying you
and getting in your way?
Stephen Patriarca: The period
of working through the Academy's project was a period ofbullying
would be too strong a worda good deal of robust debate
and discussion. That was because nationally the template for Academies
was based on the previous model, which was the failing school
being brought into the Academies movement or reconstructed as
an Academy. We were very lucky in that we could see some models
like the CTCs that were transferred to Academy status. For example,
we worked closely with Dr. Sidwell who was overseeing the Haberdashers'
Academies in south-east London. They were much more like us, where
successful CTCs had become an Academy rather than an Academy replacing
"a failing school". Naturally, with those templates
and a bureaucracy in place that did not fit us, we were struggling,
but we had huge support from the Minister downwardsright
through the Department, through our advisers and other people
in the movement. I think we have made it easier for our successors
and that other schools coming into the programme from our background
will find it easier as a consequence of the lessons we have learned.
Patrick Derham: We do not feel
bullied and that is not arrogant or complacent; we are just confident
in what we are doing. I spoke to Dame Suzi LeatherI was
asked to talk to her before the second draft guidelines came outand
the point was made that there is some nervousness in the sector.
It is difficult for me to generalise about the sector because
of the lack of clarity about what is going to happen. There is
a worry that there will be a one-size-fits-all approach. There
has to be an element of proportionality and Chris made that point
well in the first session. It is very different for schools such
as Rugby. You cannot generalise from a microcosmic example and
say that that is the right way; there are lots of different ways
of achieving public benefit or of working with the maintained
sector. This just happens to be the approach that we have adopted
and that we think is right. Certainly, at no point have we ever
felt bullied. We have felt very supported and people have been
very interested in what we are doingwithin Government and
in educational circles.
Q336 Chairman: There seemed to be
a lot of language in the previous session about the cold war,
ideology and bullying. You were both running schools in the system
for, as you said, over 30 years, and did not recognise that sort
of language. I was surprised at that kind of language.
Stephen Patriarca: May I give
you a specific example of that? During the project we decided
to join the United Learning Trust, which came in as our educational
sponsors. The United Learning Trust's sister organisation is the
new United Church Schools Trust, which is made up of a number
of leading independent schools. When we meet as principals, we
meet both sectorsUCST and ULT principals meet termly to
discuss educational issues. We have discussed year 7 curriculum
and transitional issues from year 6 to year 7 in a room with 50%
independent school heads and 50% Academy principals. I do not
notice any division or any kind of artificial barrier; quite the
contrarywe have a lively, dynamic discussion as a consequence
of the so-called two sectors coming together. I simply do not
think it is true that leaders from both sectors are not in dialogue;
they are in dialogue at a national and local level.
Q337 Mr Chaytor: Could I ask both
of our witnesses whether they think that parents who pay fees
to independent schools should get tax relief on their fees?
Stephen Patriarca: That is a political
issue that I am entitled to answer as an individual. However,
if you are asking me to speak as a principal on behalf of my school
or the movement, obviously I do not have a view. My personal view
is that I can see the argument for it.
Q338 Mr Chaytor: Would it be to the
advantage of the education system as a whole in the UK if that
policy were introduced?
Stephen Patriarca: From the Academy
perspective, I cannot see that it would make any difference to
Mr Chaytor: I am asking you to look outside
the Academies. That is why I am looking to you to answer as well
Stephen Patriarca: I suppose that
if you push me for an answer, I would say that anything that puts
more money into the educational system and the education of childrenwhether
it is put into the public or private sectoris valuable
because in the end that money benefits all our children.
Q339 Mr Chaytor: But that would not
put more money in, would it?
Stephen Patriarca: Well, yes it
would because you are freeing up resources that parents are otherwise
committing to school fees, which would strengthen the voluntary
sector. When I was an independent school head, I would have found
it much easier to go to my parents and ask for extra money for
my outdoor pursuits centre or for the bursary fund to help underprivileged
children and so on if they were spending less on school fees.
That is common sense. Those are value judgements.
Mr Chaytor: The answer is yes.
Stephen Patriarca: The answer
is I can see the argument that that would liberate resources.