Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 19 Jul 2007

When will private schools start to partner state schools? Our mediocre comprehensive badly needs help from its public school neighbours.

Hillary's Advice

Itís true that, as this frustrated reader points out, there is far more talk than action around the idea of state and private schools linking up. But to think that help from a private school is the answer to a floundering state school is ridiculous. Those of us with experience of both sectors know that there are just as many timid, lazy and unimaginative teachers in private schools as in public ones. In fact, possibly even more. In nearly thirty years of educational reporting all the really outstanding lessons that Iíve sat in on have, without exception, been in state schools. And while itís true that public schools get great exam results, this is as much to do with having hand-picked pupils and terrific resources than the quality of lessons on offer.

So donít sit around waiting for some mythical outsider to turn up and save what you say is a complacent and mediocre school. Do something yourself. Collect evidence of things such as poor results, sloppy lessons, poor discipline and unmarked homeworks. Enlist other parents to your cause Ė there will be lots willing to sign up, if things are as bad as you say. Then take your complaints first to the head, and then, if necessary, to the governors. Expect to be badly received. An inadequate head will not like hearing home truths. And do not be fobbed off with vague promises. Decide what improvements you want to see, then press on until you see them happening.

And if, in addition, a neighbouring public school can be persuaded help out with something concrete like science or sports, then thatís good. Look on it as a helpful adjunct to the main agenda.