The UK Government’s Department for Education provides state-maintained primary and secondary school places for young people in England. Some parents, however, choose private education, sending their children to fee-paying independent schools, which are not subject to the same government control. These typically have smaller classes and superior facilities to state schools (Green et al, 2011), and although they educate only 7% of all pupils (ISC, 2016), their alumni occupy a proportionally higher number of seats in government and places at Oxford and Cambridge Universities (Sutton Trust, 2017). Furthermore, many independent schools hold charitable status (Fairbairn, 2017), bringing them significant tax benefits, further extending their financial advantage. In 1997 the Labour government charged independent schools with sharing their facilities and their teachers with local state-maintained schools (DFEE, 1997). The first ‘independent state school partnerships’ (ISSPs) were centrally funded the following year, and by 2017 the Independent Schools Council reported that 88% of its schools were involved in some form of partnership with schools in the maintained sector (ISC, 2017). While private education divides the main UK political parties, ISSPs have received support from both Labour and Conservative governments since their introduction. There has, though, been little research into their nature or their worth. This paper considers the findings of my study of three English ISSPs, exploring the relationships between schools and the ways they are embracing differences between them. It explores the nature of joint working and what the headteachers, teachers and pupils involved in them understand by the term partnership.
Margaret Hunnaball, King's College London, United Kingdom
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