Berkhamsted School’s headteacher denies Gove claim of a Berlin Wall between private and state education

editorial image

A headteacher has rejected government education secretary Michael Gove’s claim that there is a Berlin Wall between private and state schools.

Berkhamsted School’s Mark Steed pointed to how his pupils use the astroturf pitch at nearby Ashlyns, while its state pupils use the swimming pool at his institution.

But he accepted that while his pupils can go climbing and skiing as part of their curriculum, opportunities like these are not always open to state school students.

He said: “I think every young person should have the opportunity to go on a camping expedition. Every young person should have the opportunity to sing in a choir, play regular sport and be part of a team. I think they are important things. I went to a state school myself and had those opportunities. I was lucky – not all state pupils have that.”

Headteacher of Berkhamsted Pre-Prep School and Day Nursery Samantha Jaspal discussed Gove’s comments on Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday. She used to teach in a London state school.

She said in the independent sector there are on average 10 to 12 fewer children in each class, so teachers can spend more time with their pupils.

She said: “There was a wonderful creativity that I had not noticed so much in the maintained sector.”

As more specialist activities are available to children in independent schools, teachers have more time to reflect on their lessons, she added.

She said: “I have found in the independent sector that my personal development as a teacher and a learner has been much more enriched.”