Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340-359)|
7 MAY 2008
Q340 Mr Chaytor: If tax relief would
encourage more parents to pay fees, and getting more money into
the system as a whole is an advantage, then the answer is presumably
Stephen Patriarca: Well, no. The
answer is I can see the argument for it, but whether it is yes
or no would depend on all sorts of other demands on the Exchequer,
which are not within my remit.
Patrick Derham: That is the answer
to the question: there are arguments both ways. It is a political
issue and I do not think that my views will influence it.
Q341 Mr Chaytor: Could I ask Stephen
about charitable status? On the issue of bursaries and scholarships,
do you think, from your point of view now, that it would be valuable
for independent schools to comply with the Charity Commission's
guideline primarily by increasing the number of, essentially,
assisted places? And would that be in the interest of your school
Stephen Patriarca: Again, my perspective
comes from the north-west. I am still associate memberor
additional memberof HMC, so I have a lot of contact with
independent school heads in the north-west. My experience is that
almost all the charitable support that they give with fees is
means-tested on a bursary basis. There are not many of the old
northern grammar schoolsnow independentthat are
giving scholarships that are not means-tested. Virtually all their
resources are bursarial. That has been very much my background
and that was how we worked when we were fee-paying. I think that
you are preaching to the converted. In the northern grammar schools
sector, we were already giving the absolute maximum that we possibly
could with the bursary.
Q342 Mr Chaytor: What I am saying
is that, leaving aside geography, if an expansion of assisted
places were the means by which more schools would be in compliance
with the new guidelines, would you argue for an expansion of assisted
places into independent schools?
Stephen Patriarca: When you say
assisted places, you are not referring to the assisted places
scheme, but you are talking about something else. Is that right?
Mr Chaytor: I am talking about bursaries,
which as far as I can see are indistinguishable from the old assisted
Stephen Patriarca: Except that
bursaries are not funded by the state, are they?
Q343 Mr Chaytor: No, but it would
be a means of obtaining the 17.5% VAT. Let us use "assisted
places" as a loose term. Would you want to see an expansion
of bursaries as a means of complying with the new Charity Commission's
Stephen Patriarca: Again, in my
experience and that of the heads I know, independent schools devote
as much of their resources to bursaries as they are able to. I
think that that is already the case. I do not know anybody in
the sector who is not committed to widening access in that way.
Obviously in highly selective academic schools those bursaries
are also related to ability, but there are plenty of independent
schools with very broad-based academic entry that are offering
the maximum number of bursaries they can. I think that it is a
bit of a myth that that there are these pots of money sitting
Q344 Mr Chaytor: If they are giving
as much as they can then presumably they are in compliance with
Stephen Patriarca: Well, exactly.
I would expect that to be the case.
Patrick Derham: Bursaries are
just one way of doing it, that is the whole point. It goes back
to what I said earlier about proportionality and the difficulty
of generalising across the sector. What schools like ours are
doing is just one way of doing it. We happen to believe in it.
It goes right the way back and is part of our DNA back to the
16th century, so for us it is very important. I am involved with
and know other schools well, and they will approach it differently
because it may not be practical. It comes down to a question of
resources within that school. All our fundraising now is devoted
to providing those opportunities for people who otherwise could
not benefit from a boarding education. That was our decision.
It is not for us to say that that is what other schools should
do; it is what we think is right and proper in the 21st century.
I would not dream of suggesting that my colleagues should adopt
the same approach. The interesting thing will be when we see on
11 July the next stage of the process. We just need to see a bit
more clarity as to what schools need to do. There cannot be one
size fits all.
Q345 Mr Chaytor: I know nothing about
the situation in Rugby. What is your assessment of the impact
on the wider educational network in Rugby of having a hugely privileged
long-established and high-achieving independent school in the
area? What is the impact of bursaries on the intake of other schools
and the overall levels of achievement for young people in Rugby
as a whole?
Patrick Derham: The great thing
about Rugby is that there is a great deal of choice. There are
two grammar schoolsa boys' grammar school and a girls'
grammar schoolwhich are highly selective, as well as some
very good maintained schools and ourselves. The thing that has
really delighted me is the very close working relationship that
we have with my colleagues. We do some fantastic partnership work
with local schools and we learn a great deal from them as they
do from us. It is very much a two-way partnership, which we have
been involved with since 2003. We are benefiting from each other.
Of course, as a school in a town, outreach and partnership is
much easier for us than for a lot of schools in the independent
sector which are not in that position. For us, on a Thursday afternoon
when we do our outreach work, it is much more straightforward
because everything is within walking distance. The maintained
schools in Rugby are all within walking distance. That has been
one of the strengths of our partnership workthat we are
so close to each and can share things much more easily. In a sense,
we have benefited from each other; we can still learn.
Q346 Mr Chaytor: Is your assessment
that the divide that we havea divide between two sectors,
and the emergence of a third sector trying to bridge that divide
through Academies and trust schoolsis an ideal way of organising
a national education system? If we were starting from scratch
with a blank sheet of paper, would you argue that the existing
structure of 7% of pupils in the independent sector and 93% in
the state sector and an emerging quasi-independent sector is the
best means of raising national levels of attainment across the
board? Or are there other models that would more effectively do
that? That is a question to you both.
Stephen Patriarca: I would have
thought that the UK was unusual in that respect. There are many
European models with a greater diversity of provision which we
ought to be looking at. One of the great strengths of the Academies
movement is that it has broken down the divide, because it no
longer makes sense to think of all independent schools as being
fee paying. Clearly Academies, as independent state schools, are
not fee-paying. So you are beginning to enrich that provision,
to increase the diversity of provision. But what we also ought
to be doing is looking at diversity of funding, much on the European
model, so that you break down the barriers further. My experience,
certainly of working in cities such as Manchester and in the south
Manchester area, is that there is very much a community across
the so-called sectors. If you have an issue that you can get assistance
with from an independent school, you might pick up the phone and
talk to someone at Manchester grammar school, or if you needed
some help from another Academy you would talk to someone at Manchester
Academy or another Academy. My staff all have e-mail contact with
their equivalents in at least one other Academy and one of the
leading independent schools. That is just how we work.
Patrick Derham: That is a very
difficult question because it is so theoretical, and schools have
such long history and tradition. But of course the basic principle
is that parents have a choice, and I think that they exercise
that choice for all the reasons that Chris mentioned in the earlier
session. I just back up what Stephen has said. The divide is not
there for us; we work very closely to the benefit of both types
Mr Chaytor: But
Chairman: David, I will bring you back
Q347 Paul Holmes: You have already
mentioned the independent/state school partnerships. Ofsted pointed
out in 2005 that those partnerships seemed to be fairly successful
but that not many schools had taken part. Why did you take part?
Patrick Derham: Principally, because
we felt that it would be of great benefit to us. We went into
it as a genuine partnership between schools in the maintained
sector and ourselves. Principally, we were looking at science,
maths and ICT, and it was very much putting things on for teachers
and technicians as well as pupils. Our pupils were acting as mentors
and pupils from other schools were acting as mentors. We taught
some maths to a local maintained school year 11 class and did
mentoring in that way. We learned a great deal. It was a two-way
process. We felt that it was important for us to play our role
in the local community. It was based very much on my experience
in Solihull, when I was headmaster there and we had enrichment
classes for all the primary schools in the borough on Saturday
mornings, again because I felt that it was important to provide
that stretch and challenge, which my colleagues felt we could
give. It has been a huge benefit to us, and we are continuing
to work with it in those areas. In recent years, we have run a
management and leadership conference for all year 12 pupils in
Rugby. That is 600 pupils, and it is fantastic. Again, we think
it is important and we want to make it work. Certainly, my experience,
talking to colleagues involved with it, is that the benefits would
be very much along the lines of what I saidthat it is a
genuine partnership and that both sectors can learn from each
Q348 Paul Holmes: Do you have one
or two specific examples of what you have learned from the maintained
Patrick Derham: It is very specific
things in terms of the approach to teaching. We are very interested
in creative teaching and independent learning, and we have learned
a great deal from our colleagues about certain approaches in both
science and IT. So there will be benefits in terms of teacher
collaboration in that wayand, again, for technicians, of
ways of workingand of pupils talking to each other. Yes,
in very practical ways there have been benefits. It is all part
of demystifying and breaking down the barriers, which are not
as stark with us as they clearly are in other parts of the country.
Q349 Paul Holmes: I have a question
about diversity, which you both mentioned in different ways. In
Rugby, Mr Derham, you said that your school, which is a fee-paying
school, takes some of the best local kids on bursaries, and that
you have grammar schools and so forth. What about the schools
at the bottom of the pecking order in Rugby that do not take grammar
school or fee-paying kids? How do they get on in this diverse
Patrick Derham: We have a partnership
scheme with one of them, and we work very closely with them. May
I correct one point? We do not cream off the best pupils locally.
That is just what we do not do under the original Lawrence Sheriff
bequest. With grammar school entry, if children are successful
in the 11-plus, a lot of their parents will obviously go down
that route, which is absolutely right. That is parental choice,
but at no point are we looking to cream off the best pupils locally.
Q350 Paul Holmes: But to whom do
you give bursaries? I presume that people sit an entrance exam.
Patrick Derham: Yes, they do.
It is clearly academically selective, but the entry is to a much
broader church. I think that you would be surprised. We work very
hard to provide the opportunity to as many people as possible,
and we work hard with them when they are in the school.
Q351 Paul Holmes: I presume that
there are schools in Rugby that do not get the grammar school
entrants, your bursary kids or the fee-paying kids, and they will
have a more difficult job. The Ridings School in Halifax, which
was famous, was right at the bottom of the pecking order. The
grammar schools and all sorts of other public schools around took
all the best kids, and the Ridings School had all the problemsand
it is now to be closed. Are there examples like that in Rugby?
Patrick Derham: One school has
just been closed because of a falling roll. The other schools
are doing well, and we work with them.
Q352 Paul Holmes: Stephen, you mentioned
diversity and having partnerships and links with independent schools
and Academies. What about?
Stephen Patriarca: You made a
very interesting pointone that we are clear about in Manchester.
Probably the most obvious example locally of a school that was
seriously struggling was the predecessor school to what is now
Manchester Academy. That school was regarded as one of the five
worst schools in the country, by whatever criteria inspectors
have for making such decisions. As an Academy, it has improved
dramatically. Attendance went from 50% to 90% in year 11. HMI
reports say that standard teaching and learning are satisfactory
or good, and there is a big improvement in GCSE results. That
surely is an example of a school that was failing having come
into the community as an Academy; it is now working alongside
us and other schools in the area with a spirit of independence.
It is an incredible commitment to, and aspiration for, children
in the most difficult circumstances. The student population is
transient, with a lot of asylum seekers and a huge ethnic mix
and so onvery much like ours. That example addresses your
point. Working as a group, whether formally in a sort of partnership,
as in Rugby, or perhaps less formally in a mixed environment with
the independent and Academy sector and so on, as in Manchester,
you can support schools that have those challenges.
Q353 Paul Holmes: One criticism levelled
at Academies is that they do not, as is claimed, always lead to
a dramatic improvement in performance, as exam results and Ofsted
show. You gave the example of your school becoming an Academy,
which now has 880 applicants for 75 places. So, obviously, you
are attracting the aspirational parents. You also have a banding
system, but you are taking 75 of the most aspirational families
and pupils out of those who apply. Manchester Academy is also
very oversubscribed. Which schools in the area are not getting
those aspirational parents?
Stephen Patriarca: Sorry, just
to correct you, I do not think that Manchester Academy is oversubscribed,
although it is a good deal more popular than its predecessor school.
It still has developments to make, but its achievements have been
huge on any criteria. Our parents are a genuine mix. Clearly,
whole year 6s from local junior schools are being encouraged to
apply to our school, so you have whole classes applying and going
through the banding system. It would be slightly disingenuous
to say that that means that all the parents are aspirationalthey
are no more aspirational than any other parents. What I think
does make a difference is that they get a sense of commitment
to the school when the child gets a place, because obviously they
are aware of the competition for places.
Q354 Paul Holmes: When it is produced,
I think that the record will show that you said that you were
getting aspirational pupils and parentsI think that you
used those words. That leads on to my final question, which takes
us back to a point discussed with the previous panel: the DNA
of schools such as yours. Lord Adonis said, "We want to extract
the DNA of the independent sector and apply it to the maintained
sector." I have listened very carefully over the past couple
of hours, and, as far as I can see, the DNA that we are talking
about applying to the state sector, in which I taught for 22 years,
would involve doubling funding for the state sector, halving class
sizes, paying teachers more, giving them longer holidays and being
more academically and socially selective. What others bits of
the DNA should we transfer?
Stephen Patriarca: Well, again,
I would not recognise much of that
Chairman: Can I give Patrick a chance
Patrick Derham: I am not sure
that I heard all that being expressed quite in that way in the
first session. To me, it is absolutely clear what makes a greater
and more successful school, in whatever sector: the importance
placed on leadership, aspiration and values. It is crucial that
we have the independence that Chris was talking about over things
such as curriculum. It is crucial that we can choose what we think
is right and appropriate for our pupils, based obviously on the
national curriculumnational curriculum plus, if you like.
Obviously, it is important to have control over admissions. Discipline
is also a key issue with our pupils. That comes back to a concept
that is very difficult to define: the ethos of a school, which
is crucial to its success. That comes from a clear sense of vision
and the educational values underpinning it.
Q355 Paul Holmes: So, you are saying
that the leadership and ethos is most important, not the class
sizes of 14 or the massively increased financial resources that
Professor Green talked about.
Patrick Derham: No, I am adding
to the list that you gave. It is a mixture of all those things.
I was fortunate to be involved in a conference in America in 1992
where we looked at educational systems in countries just coming
out of communism. We spent four days discussing what makes a great
school. At the end of that, it came down to that word "ethos",
which crossed national boundaries, however you wanted to define
it. The school had to have that clear sense of vision. Obviously,
the other factors that you highlighted will pay a part, but you
asked me for things in addition to what you listed.
Q356 Mr Stuart: Following on from
that, Professor Green was convinced that the only reason for the
improved performance in the independent sector was additional
resources. For whatever reason, he did not see that the ethos
and other elements were the key contributing factors. Is that
because he is uniquely blind, or is there evidence to show that
that ethos and leadership adds value over and above the points
that have just been picked up? Otherwise, it is an assertion,
rather than evidence. There is anecdotal evidence. When William
Hague was Secretary of State for Wales, he looked at the school
tablesanother controversial subjectand saw that
some schools went up the table rapidly. He would always ask what
had brought about the difference and would be told that there
was a new head teacher and that it was down to leadership. Is
there something about the independence of the Academies programme
that encourages better leadership and encourages leaders to come
to the fore?
Stephen Patriarca: Some of that
comes back to the point about independence that we spoke about
earlier. It is also related to the extra-curricular dimension
that is so strong in the independent sector. One of the surprises
that I had when we joined the maintained sector was how fewer
state schools had Saturday morning fixtures, for example. We have
now mixed some of our fixtures with the state sector and some
with the independent sector, and that is routine for us. Probably
25% of my staff expect to be in on Saturday mornings supporting
school sport, to be there in the evenings running practices or
the CCF, or to spend weekends in term time running the Duke of
Edinburgh's award scheme. When you are working with children,
particularly in an inner-city environment such as south Manchester,
that is hugely valuable, because clearly when children are involved
in structured extra-curricular activity, they are being kept off
the streets and away from the kind of environment that is so threatening.
Chairman: Graham, would you be indulgent
for just a second? I want to call David for a quick supplementary
question because he has to leave to ask the Prime Minister a question.
I shall come straight back to you.
Q357 Mr Chaytor: Chairman, I am very
grateful. I happened to come out of the hat for Prime Minister's
questions today. I just want to pick up on the issue that I asked
about earlier and to respond to Patrick Derham's point about choice
in all schools, particularly independent schools. Although we
operate within the context of the rhetoric of parental choice,
surely the reality in all independent schools is that it is the
school that decides. All parents in Rugby might wish or aspire
to send their children to Rugby school, but Rugby school may choose
not to admit all those pupils. Is that not the central issue?
Patrick Derham: But the same argument
applies to the grammar schools in the maintained sector.
Q358 Mr Chaytor: Of course. I am
just challenging your assumption that we are all operating within
a context of parental choice. Surely we are operating within a
situation of institution choice.
Patrick Derham: Well, yes. One
of the key aspects of the independent sector is that we have control
over admissions and can set our own clear and transparent policy
on whatever the academic standard happens to be. That is absolutely
right, and I am not disputing that.
Q359 Mr Chaytor: Stephen, your decision
for your school to become an Academy has been linked to your choice
to go for specialist school status in languages, so you have the
capacity to select 10% for languages. Is that 10% selection sufficient
to maintain the ethos that you referred to earlier? I think that
you said in your opening statement that it would be difficult
to maintain the ethos, given your new status. What is the cut-off
point, and to what extent can you be an open-access school and
still aspire to the ethos that you had when you were a reasonably
high-end selective school?
Stephen Patriarca: On maintaining
the ethos, my point was that we are not complacent. Clearly, I
think that it can be done, but it has to be worked atone
must not be glib about that. With regard to the 10% MFL selection,
I frankly do not think that it is relevant or that it has any
significant impact on pupil ethos at all. I also think that pupils
who are in the lowest academic band are just as likely to enthuse
and work with the school as those in the highest, and I could
give you stacks of anecdotal examples of that. I think that the
issue is about not academic ability, but how you induct pupils
when they come to the school, get them to sign up to that community
and get the parents to do the same. As far as MFL is concerned,
we were aware that it was an issue in Manchester and that there
was a problem with language teaching, and well under 20% of pupils
across the state sector achieved a GCSE in languages. I happen
to think that that is a terrible thing for the future of this
country, so I have a personal commitment. I am not a linguist,
but I felt and judged that that was important. I do not know whether
the FL test will be significant. We have only done it for one
year. I am monitoring that and we will monitor the pupils over
a period of years. I am very happy for this Committee to have
the results of that pilot. We are using an American university's
aptitude test. It does not simply take from the top band. Interestingly,
two of the pupils who did very well on that aptitude test were
in the lowest ability band on the reasoning test.