Media Release

Press Release: A new wave of radical education reform is needed to end Britain’s educational divide

A new phase of radical education reform is needed to end Britain’s educational divide by opening up independent schools to the most disadvantaged, and by charging affluent parents who want to send their children to popular state schools, says the UK’s most prominent headteacher, Anthony Seldon, in a new report published by the Social Market Foundation today.

The SMF report, Schools United: Ending the divide between independent and state, explores the Adonis-Gove education reforms of 2000-2015 and sets out a radical agenda for how these can be completed towards 2030. Seldon calls for a new wave of education reforms, which offers young people a more rounded education, enhances social mobility and ends the divide between state and independent schools.

Anthony Seldon believes his proposals will widen access to private education, bring new money into the state system, incentivise state schools to perform better, enhance social mobility and reduce the domination of places at the top state schools by children from well off parents.

Seldon outlines four levels of change to create a unified education system for the first time:

1. State schools should emulate the best features of independent schools such as house systems, boarding, longer school days, uniforms and greater parental involvement.

2. Independent schools should bond with state schools, from shared teaching and facilities to sponsoring an academy or setting up a free school.

3. Independent schools should open their doors and offer a quarter of their places to those from the least affluent quartile in the country.  This will guarantee the students benefitting would be only those from the least privileged backgrounds.  The government grant would be capped at a maximum of 50% above what it would have paid for the child to attend state school.

4. Popular state schools should be means tested. Families earning over £80,000 a year, should contribute financially for their children to go to a popular state school.  The more the parents earn, the more they must pay. If families earn over £200,000 per year, they should pay the full price of their children’s education at popular state schools.  Fees at the most popular state schools should be the same for the affluent as the fees charged at independent day schools. This ‘parent premium’ for those households earning over £200,000 per year will generate surplus funds – a quarter of which would be retained by the school themselves, while the rest is redistributed amongst state schools at large.

Commenting on the report, SMF Director, Emran Mian said:

Anthony Seldon is trying to use excellence wherever he can find it in the schools system to give opportunities to the most disadvantaged.

His agnosticism – who cares if the school is state or independent, so long as it’s accessible to the most talented, not the richest – will make some on the political right, as well as the left, uncomfortable.

But a new wave of radical reform across the major public services might be the only way to manage another five years of austerity while improving results.

Notes to Editors:

  • The Social Market Foundation (SMF) is a leading independent UK think tank which develops innovative ideas across a broad range of economic and social policy, champions policy ideas which marry markets with social justice and takes a pro-market rather than free-market approach.
  • Anthony Seldon is Master of Wellington College and Executive Principal of Wellington Academy. He has written and edited some 30 books include the standard works on Prime Ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He is currently writing the authorised account of the Cameron premiership. He has written widely and extensively on the subject of education reform.

Media contact:

Amanda Wolthuizen
020 7227 4401
07906 778 516


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