Education & Family

David Cameron urges Eton to set up state school

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Media captionDavid Cameron said he was willing to "talk to anyone" who could help improve standards

David Cameron wants his old school Eton College to set up a school in the state sector, the BBC has learned.

Representatives of top public schools met the prime minister and Education Secretary Michael Gove on Thursday in Downing Street to discuss the issue.

Mr Cameron said he wanted all private schools to see how they could help drive up standards.

Eton head teacher Tony Little has said the school is looking at greater involvement in state education.

He told the BBC that Eton had close relations with local state schools and was examining "several possible routes" for greater involvement and "ruled nothing out".

But in the past Mr Little has expressed his concern that creating new state schools could distract private schools from their core role.

Eton College is not the first independent school to consider how it can help improve state schools.

A number of other private schools, including Wellington College and City of London Boys Schools, have already set up academies - independently run but state-funded schools.

And many private schools are being forced to look at how they can widen access, because under recent Charity Commission guidelines they need to prove their public benefit in order to retain the tax breaks they enjoy.

Mr Cameron revealed the plans in an interview with BBC political editor Nick Robinson. He said: "I have had the best head teachers of state schools into No 10.

"I have had the private schools into No 10. I have had the universities into No 10 to talk about university technical colleges.

"The truth is the problem has been not enough good school places in our country... so anyone who can play a role in that - private schools included - is welcome through my door to talk about how we drive up standards."

When asked if he would like his former school to get involved, Mr Cameron said: "Yes, I would like all private schools to engage in this agenda and if you look at most private schools many of them already run bursaries for children from less well - off backgrounds and partnering state schools.

"To me all private schools have always had a charitable foundation, a charitable purpose, and that's a great way to deliver that," said Mr Cameron.

The comments came after Mr Cameron opened one of the government flagship new free schools in Norwich on Friday morning.

In a speech there he also accused a number of state schools in England - particularly in more affluent areas - of "coasting".

He vowed to confront failure in education head-on and deliver "real excellence" through greater choice, competition and freedom.

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