Response to Michael Gove

Last week in the Times former Education Secretary Michael Gove suggested that not only should the charitable status of independent schools be ended but also that that VAT should be charged on school fees.  He was critical too of the support given to private school cadet forces.

 

He went on to say that “the fees for these schools are all more than £30,000 per year.” ‘They are out of reach for all save the very wealthiest’ he goes on to say.  He then questions just who gets the bursaries that are offered.

 

How wrong can Mr Gove be in one article?  It is though a concerning attack on the private school system.  It is particularly disappointing that he seems to see all independent schools as the same.  We do not charge even half of the fee he quotes.  We offer bursaries to well over 100 children, many of them from the most deprived parts of the city.  This year we had over 90 applicants from families desperate to give their children a brilliant education and one which sadly is not always available to them in the Schools in their local neighbourhoods for which Mr Gove had responsibiility until recently.  We could take many more of the deprived students Mr Gove states that he is so keen to support if only the government would work with us to find creative ways of extending the reach of independent schools.

 

Of course, if all of Mr Gove’s plans were to be adopted it would be a major challenge for the independent sector and many smaller schools might not survive.  If this were to happen the state would have to take them all into the maintained sector at considerable additional cost to the public purse.  The Independent Schools council quotes research from Oxford Economics in 2014 which found that the saving to the taxpayer from the 500,000 pupils in Independent Schools Council schools not being in state education is worth £3 billion, while the tax revenues generated by these schools is £3.6 billion. ISC schools additionally contribute £9.5 billion to the UK economy and the sector supports well over 200,000 jobs in the UK.  Can the state really afford to take on the extra burden – each child transferring from an independent school would cost the state £5,500 to educate?  What too would he propose to replace all the fantastic work being done by schools like ours in supporting children in maintained schools with a wide variety of activities.  Would the government really start to fund the Sunday cricket coaching that we provide to local children, or organise a cross-country event for over 400 primary aged children or provide opportunities for children across the city to hear about Oxbridge entrance.  The opportunities that he criticises us for providing in CCF are also opened up to a local state school – would he really replace the support that we are able to give them in setting up in due course their own contingent?  Would he really pay for the local primary school in one of the toughest inner-city area to take their children on a residential weekend?  His plans would decimate the fantastic work that so many schools do to support those in the local area.

 

Sadly he does not list those really deprived areas of Nottingham where we are offering bursary places too but places like St. Ann’s or the Meadows are very similar to those that he does name such as Knowsley or Sunderland and our bursaries reach into these communities.  Teachers working in primary schools in these areas, many of them suffering cuts to budgets, see the fantastic opportunity that our education with a bursary offers and recommend their students to us.  In return a charity linked with our school helps to fund such things as breakfast clubs or residential trips in these same schools.

 

It would make much more sense for the government that Mr Gove supports to take up the offer of 10,000 extra free places in schools such as ours which the Independent Schools Council has offered.  This would entail the government transferring the money which they are already paying to send these children to state schools to us and we would then top up the additional costs of these places.

 

Mr Gove wants to take the additional money his scheme would raise so that he could offer it to the most disadvantaged children in society – those in care.  He is clearly just completely unaware that schools like mine are already supporting such children in our schools and thanks to our bursary provision they are given a fantastic opportunity and superb pastoral care.

 

He speaks of those attending our schools as the ‘global super-rich’ – I am not sure that our parents would recognise this group in our school.  As I have said before, our parents are much more likely to be taxi-drivers than hedge fund managers.  Many more of our parents are making huge sacrifices because they believe in the importance of education in a way that governments of whatever political hue seldom do.

 

Mr Gove, please come and visit schools such as mine which provide a really amazing range of opportunities to all of the children we educate irrespective of their background.  Many of those on bursaries with us will be the first from their families to reach university and many of them will go on to give back in society in so many ways just as Ken Clarke, a former Tory politician of considerable reputation, has done since he came to our school on an assisted place.  Perhaps Mr Gove should read the section in Ken Clarke’s autobiography when he talks of the contribution that Nottingham High School gave him as a result of his supported place.

Far from being the problem that Michael Gove suggests we are, why not see us as part of the solution?

Nottingham High School and Public Benefit

As an independent school we have an obligation each year to report on our public benefit – in other words the contribution that our school makes to the wider community.  I am very grateful to our Assistant Head Kieron Heath who has pulled the following information together and which we will now keep on our school website.  Independent schools are often seen as ‘islands of privilege’ so publishing this is designed to show just how much we do to work with our local community in Nottingham.  I reproduce the report in full here (forgive the length but we do so much!):

The charitable objective for our School is to advance education and training, by the provision and conduct of a primary and secondary school in or near the City of Nottingham. The principal object is met by the provision of an educational environment that will develop to the full the talents of able children.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Policy

The School is committed to broadening access by offering to eligible parents means-tested financial support with the payment of school fees.  Such support is known as a Bursary and these may be awarded in the form of a discount of up to 100% on tuition fees payable, depending on the financial, compassionate or other pertinent circumstances of applicants.

Bursaries may be made available to parents of pupils entering Year 7.

The school is a non-profit making charitable institution and has only limited resources to assist those parents who for whatever reason are unexpectedly unable to meet their obligations to pay fees for their child’s education.

Parents with a child at the School whose financial circumstances suddenly change may write to the Headmaster, explaining their situation. In some circumstances Governors in the absolute exercise of their discretion may authorise the Head of Finance & Operations to waive fees wholly or in part or to advance assistance from the Bursary Fund ahead of budgeted income from that resource.

Consistent with the school’s philosophy as much help as possible will be given to the family concerned in identifying potential sources of advice assistance and funding. The School will support the family’s applications to other grant-making bodies and this has enabled several families to access additional financial assistance from external sources.

AwarenessInformation provided by the School alerting the parents of potential pupils to the possibility of gaining means-tested financial support with the payment of schools fees is included in:

  • The School prospectus
  • The School website
  • Open Days and Taster Days
  • Exhibitions designed to market the School

Planning

The School operates a monthly payment scheme to assist those parents who wish to spread payment for School Fees over the year to better match their income streams.

Other

The School offers a number of non means-tested scholarships at entry to Year 7 each year, by means of a modest reduction in the tuition fees based on academic potential as evidenced by the Entrance Examination. Where appropriate, a recipient of a scholarship may also benefit from means-tested assistance from the Bursary Fund.

Assistance provided

The School provided, or was instrumental in providing, the total financial assistance shown in the following table from the various methods described above.

2014/15 2013/14
Value of assistance £000 Pupils % of fees receivable % of pupils in School £000 Pupils % of fees receivable % of pupils in School
High School Bursary 969       108       8.4             11.1               873          103             7.7                10.5
External assistance * 12 n/a      47       2 0.4 0.2
Total means-tested assistance 981       108       8.5 11.1           920          105             8.1

               10.7

 

* The operation of the School’s Bursary Fund enabled some bursary holders to access additional financial assistance from other sources.

In addition, other financial assistance totalling £103,000 was provided to 86 pupils (2014: £101,000 to 86 pupils) in the form of Scholarships.

The total means-tested assistance was provided at the levels shown in the following table.

School only Total means-tested
2014/15 2013/14 2014/15 2013/14
Percentage of fee remission Number % Number % Number % Number %
0 – 50% 31 28.7          31      30.1 29 26.9          29      28.2
50 – 75% 25 23.1          22      21.4 25 23.1          20      19.4
75 – 99% 38 35.2          39     37.8 38 35.2       41      39.8
100% 14 13.0             11        10.7 16 14.8          13      12.6
108 100.0          103    100.0 108 100.0          103    100.0

 

Furthermore, a significant number of families take advantage of the School’s scheme to spread payment for fees over the year.

Future plans

The School will continue to provide such support in order to ensure that the education at the School can be made available where parents are of more modest means.

The School’s Development Office has a key role to enhance relationships with alumni and other stakeholders with a view to generating additional funds to support further Bursary provision.

 Working with others in the community:

Nottingham High School is committed to working with our local and wider communities.  A number of the community partnership projects are outlined in greater detail on the ‘Schools Together’ website: http://www.schoolstogether.org/

Working with other Primary Schools:

  • Community Action: Provision of regular volunteers for placements in local state primary schools for members of our Community Action scheme to act as classroom assistants.
  • Provision of outdoor residential education opportunity in Derbyshire for Year 5 pupils from two local state primaries, funded, organised and staffed by our Community Action group.
  • Classics: Member of staff has joined the Latin Hub in Nottingham which is being set up to support Latin teaching in primary schools in Nottinghamshire and the surrounding area. This is a group involving NTU, the University of Nottingham and Nottingham County Council.
  • DT: Young Engineers going to local junior school fairs. Have built robots for junior school pupils to engage with.  Providing positive role models to junior schools of high tech skills of our pupils.
  • English: Partnership with Forest Fields Primary School: use of NHS teachers to provide sessions for FF pupils, invitations to FF pupils to visit NHS for author visits coordinated and hosted by our library.
  • Junior Book Slam, approx. 200 local primary children attended last year. Berridge, Jesse Gray, Robert Mellors and Edna G Olds Schools have attended.
  • PE and Games: Participate in and host numerous fixtures with local primary schools.
  • Host Primary Schools Cricket Festival.
  • Provide cricket coaching in a number of local primary schools.
  • Enter and support a wide variety of City and County Schools sports competitions and festivals.
  • Host Primary Schools tag rugby competition.
  • Host Primary Schools cross country competition.
  • Coordination of collection of Sainsbury’s Active Vouchers to donate to local Primary School.
  • Maths: Host Nottingham High School Junior Mathematics Challenge for Year 5 pupils. Six local primary school attended last year.
  • Science: Primary school teacher training. Member of Science staff to provide INSET for KS1 and KS2 teachers, in delivery of Science, offered to local Nottingham primary schools.
  • Hosted the ‘Kitchen Sink Show’, local primary schools attended, around 100 children. Claremont and Robert Mellors School attended this last year.
  • Hosting primary school Physics Competition.

 Working with other Secondary Schools:

  • Art: Nottingham Society of Artist- annual exhibition
  • Life Drawing classes – open to all
  • CCF: Partnership with local state maintained secondary, Arnold Hill School, to help establish a CCF unit as part of the CEP (Cadet Expansion Programme).
  • Chemistry: Hosted colleague from Rushcliffe School for day to share ideas and good practice.
  • Classics: Members of Nottingham & Birmingham and Midlands Classical Associations and EMACT.
  • Member of staff is the Schools Rep on the Nottingham Classics Association committee.
  • Member of staff co-ordinates the EMACT Poster Competition. We take part in the EMACT Latin & Greek Reading Competition each year and host the regional competition some years.
  • We take 6th form students to the EMACT 6th form conference annually and have hosted the event recently.
  • We have provided training and resources to support those teaching Latin at the Nottingham Free School and Rushcliffe School in the last couple of years.
  • DofE: Hosting of Awards ceremony and meetings for Nottingham City Schools. Provision of assessors for local state school.
  • DT: Centre of excellence for high tech activities. Sharing good practice with visiting teachers from other schools developing their high tech skills and looking at developing their entries in national competitions. Link with NUAST to mentor them in VEX robotics work.
  • Economics: Working with Emanuel School and Becket School Economics Departments to share ideas/best practice.
  • English: Participation/contributions to A-level English Language Teacher’s Network (University of Nottingham—other schools include Arnold Hill Academy, Toot Hill, Redhill Academy, Rushcliffe.)
  • Partnership with Djanogly Academy – Year 7 ‘Poetry Slam’, working with our library.
  • Higher Education: Undertake a number of mock interviews for prospective Oxbridge candidates from local state schools.
  • Host an Oxbridge information evening , to which we invite all local schools – about 300 booked from outside schools for this year’s meeting.
  • Host a fair for overseas study with 21 foreign universities manning stands.  All local schools were invited.
  • MFL: Partnerships with overseas secondary schools in France and Germany to facilitate exchange visits.
  • Model United Nations: Students work in collaboration with students from other schools, taking part in the Model United Nations Conferences, discussing and raising awareness of global issues.
  • Music: Composition workshop open to pupils from any secondary school in the area.
  • PE and Games: Participate in wide variety of fixtures and competitions.
  • As an MCC Foundation Hub Programme we provide a high quality coaching programme to children from 20 local state secondary schools who are without the level of cricket provision typical of schools from the independent sector.
  • Physics: Part of an Ogden Trust Group with other local schools and both Nottingham universities competing in competitions at all age groups / attending lectures. Other schools include Trinity, Kimberly School, Nottingham Girls High School, Chilwell, Arnold Hill
  • RS: Links through the Face to Faith video conferencing with different international schools. Possibility for collaborative work with some other schools: TichoNet, Tel Aviv, Israel; Chinmaya International Residential School, Tamil Nadu, India; City Montessori School, Lucknow, India; SIES Altiero Spinelli, Torino, Italy; Taras Shevchenko Gymnasium, Ukraine; Okhtyrka Gymnasium, Ukraine

Teacher Training:

  • Regular PGCE students from local universities including Nottingham and Nottingham Trent.
  • Contact with local university PGCE students requiring assistance with data collection and questionnaires.
  • Links with ISTIP, hosting regular meetings and training for NQTs across the region.

 Working with Universities (aside from teacher training):

  • Governor links are assured through both Nottingham Trent and the University of Nottingham being represented on our Board of Governors.
  • We have regular communication with a number of universities through our access to Higher Education and Careers programmes.
  • A Psychology teacher is working closely with Loughborough University and Brunel University Sport Psychology team and PE staff whilst currently completing a PhD.
  • A number of university students have used our laser cutting and 3D printing facilities.
  • Links with and visits to the University of Nottingham Chemistry Department (eg Spectroscopy Masterclass visits).
  • Links with University of Nottingham Economics Department.
  • Drama Department has initiated link with Nottingham Trent University and their set design students.

Further educational provision across the local and wider community:

A number of staff are involved with the coordination and marking of public examination work and published educational work.

Chemistry:
·       AQA GCSE Chemistry Senior Examiner on CH1 and CH2
·       Question writer for BMAT, IMAT and UCAM tests administered by Cambridge Assessment
Classics:
·       Examiner for OCR – Team leader on a GCSE Language Paper
·       Examiner for OCR – AS Latin Language paper
·       Examiner for OCR – GCSE Latin Language paper
·       Examiner for OCR – AS Classical Civilisation Paper
Computing:
·       COMP 1 Examiner AQA
Drama:
·       GCSE AQA Unit 2 Moderator
·       GCSE AQA Unit 1 Senior Examiner
Economics:
·       Exam marking for AQA Economics
·       Writing of text books and magazine articles for A-level students
Maths:
·       Edexcel Reviewer
·       AQA Examiner
·       Reviewer of maths texts for Mathematical Gazette
 
Music:
·       Examiner for Pearson
·       Examiner for AQA
PE and Games:
·       Moderator Cambridge IGCSE
Physics:
·       Examiner for AQA
Politics:
·       Examiner for Edexcel Government and Politics
RS:
·       Examiner for AQA

Members of staff at Nottingham High School contribute to the development of other schools as governors:

  • Bleasby Primary
  • Farnsfield Junior School
  • Greenwich Free School
  • Joseph Whittaker School

 A Chemisty teacher is involved with HMC Teacher Training fair.

A Chemistry teacher is involved with Easter revision courses for A-Level students at Nottingham University run by Sutton Trust.

A Music teacher works with Cantamus, currently ranked 3rd in the world of youth choirs and based in Mansfield.

A Music teacher is a member of the Music Masters and Mistresses Association.

A Music teacher is on committee of the Nottingham Young Musician of the Year Competition.

Several music teachers are involved with music-making in the community (accompanying, conducting etc).

Members of the Drama Department provide National Youth Theatre tuition and coordinate LAMDA tuition.

A Classics teacher has led several training sessions for teachers on examining at ARLT Summer Schools and Refresher Days and also at events run by the Birmingham Classical Association at the University of Birmingham.

Our librarian speaks to local History Societies, such as the Lowdham Local History Society, about history of the School.

Within Design and Technology, some national award winning A level projects have had significant community benefits.  For example, Care Home Fall Detection and Flood Detection systems.

Links with Royal Society of Chemistry.

A number of staff are involved with contributions to organising community sport:

  • Chairman City Schools Athletics Association
  • Regional ESAA Track and Field Secretary
  • Organising committee Nottinghamshire County Games
  • Two Nottinghamshire AA committee members
  • ESAA Cross Country Secretary
  • England Girls’ Rounders U16 coach
  • Manager of MCC Hub Programme hosted at NHS – state school cricket development programme
  • Organiser of local charity swimathons
  • County Hockey Cups organiser U14 and U16
  • Hockey JAC/JPC selector

 An English teacher sat as a judge for the BBC Radio 2 ‘500 words’ Creative Writing competition

Our library reaches a wider community through blogging about School History, Books, Reading and Literacy initiatives and News.

Through the Library online Book of Remembrance, interaction and information sharing with families and organisations involved in research into War Records such as www.aircrewremembered.com.

The librarian was involved with liaising with Development Director of Nottingham bid for UNESCO City of Literature re: information on DH Lawrence, Geoffrey Trease, etc and future collaborations.

A member of staff has strong links with Trent Vineyard – Arches Charity and Soup Run in Nottingham.

A member of staff is involved with Riding for the Disabled.

Further work with our local community:

Holiday Club:

Held annually using the School facilities, this is open to children across the city during parts of both the Easter and Summer Holiday periods.  Up to 200 children a week attend each week whilst the club is running.

Community Action:

Pupils from Year 9 upwards have the opportunity to get involved with our Community Action group.

  • Hosting of annual Christmas events for senior citizens within the Nottingham community.
  • Regular provision of volunteers to the St Ann’s Allotments community project.
  • Provision of regular volunteers for placements in local state primary schools for members of our Community Action scheme to act as classroom assistants.
  • Provision of outdoor residential education opportunity in Derbyshire for Year 5 pupils from two local state primaries, funded, organised and staffed by our Community Action group.
  • Members of Community Action undertake a weekly volunteering commitment within their local community.
  • Strong links with local branch of the NSPCC, through which fund raising and collections of Christmas and Easter presents for children in our local community has taken place

Combined Cadet Force (CCF):

  • Support for Nottingham City Remembrance parade at St. Mary’s Church and the parade through the City.
  • Provision of resources, such as use of range facilities, to local ATC unit.
  • Planned support and partnership with Arnold Hill School as outlined above.

Scouting:

  • Helping local scout and guide groups to develop craft and design based activities.
  • Scouting impacts on public benefit from our own Scout Troop and Explorer Scout Unit – DoE service volunteering that our Scouts are involved with.
  • Hosting of Scouts DoE and Scout leaders meetings and award presentation meetings.

 Support for the Arts in and around the Nottingham community:

  • School Plays and Concerts are available to the local community as an audience.
  • The Arts Society is unique locally in encouraging large numbers of students to attend a wide range of theatrical and musical events.
  • The Drama Department facilitates the Nottingham Shakespeare Society open-book performance.
  • Drama GCSE and A level students support local theatre with regular theatre visits.
  • The English Department organise curriculum visits to local theatres and cinemas.
  • Music is very strong in the School and choirs and musical groups have performed at a wide variety of local venues, from Oakfield School to the Royal Concert Hall.

Further Community Links:

The School has had close links with a number of city centre churches, particularly St. Mary’s where the School was founded and is the venue for our annual Founder’s Day Service.  A member of staff is director of music at St. Mary’s and links have been further strengthened since a retired Deputy Head from the School took up a senior position at St. Mary’s.  The carol concert and further musical events take place in the church.

The School plays an active role in supporting our immediate community in and around the Arboretum area of Nottingham, working with the City Council to improve traffic flow in the area and promoting good behaviour and a social conscience within the community.

The provision of an extensive school bus service significantly reduces the need for car journeys to and from the School.

 Charity Fund Raising:

 Charities are supported through our School House system, which each House selecting one or two charities annually to support.  Money is raised through sponsored events such as bike rides, runs, cake sales, non-uniform days and Tutor Set collections.

This year the House charities are:

  • Coopers’: Teenage Cancer Trust
  • Maples’: Berega Hospital, Tanzania
  • Mellers’: Nottingham Women’s Refuge and Framework
  • Whites’: Aegis Trust

Whole School charity events are very much encouraged and supported.  This year money has been raised for the BBC Children in Need appeal and UNICEF.

Further to this, the links between our Community Action Group and our local NSPCC branch have led to charity collections at our School productions which has raised money to support their transport funds to assist in getting children to and from their centre.

Our librarian organised a sponsored ‘readathon’ for children’s charities.

Students and staff are involved annually in the Marie Curie Cancer Charity collection in Nottingham City centre.

In recent years our senior expeditions to Tanzania and Bolivia have involved raising money and practical help in building classrooms in areas of need.

We are always looking for new ways to develop our links with our local community so please do contact me if you are interested in forming such links.