Many private-sector schools are becoming increasingly exclusive and failing to live up to their original charitable purpose, according to Lord Adonis.
The former Schools Minister suggested it is inexcusable for the independent sector to separate itself from state education, and called on fee-paying schools to become involved in the academies programme.
In comments ahead of the London Festival of Education, Lord Adonis said that the trustees and governors of private schools should look at their charitable values as a “matter of conscience and duty”.
“To those in the private school world who are reluctant to embrace academies, I appeal to their professionalism and their charitable missions,” Lord Adonis said.
“It was excusable to stand apart from state-funded education when the state did not want them engaged in the first place. But that is the isolationist politics of the past.
“With the academies programme, supported across the political spectrum, they have an opportunity to engage in state-funded education without compromising their independence, renewing for the 21st century their essential moral and charitable purposes.”
Lord Adonis argued that leading private schools including Winchester, Charterhouse, Westminster School, Harrow and Eton were all set up for charitable reasons – mainly the education of poor scholars.
“I could go on through the founding charters of hundreds of private schools,” he said.
“It shouldn’t take the Charity Commission to challenge private school foundations about their charitable missions.
“Their trustees and governors should look to them constantly as a matter of conscience and duty. With each passing decade many of these schools have become more not less exclusive, and for generations now, few of them have done anything radical to reconnect with their charitable purposes.
“Most of them are seeking to provide a few more bursaries. But this is hardly enough when they could also be running academies whose central purpose is the very mission for which their assets were originally intended.”
Lord Adonis served as Schools Minister under the last Labour government and is seen as a main architect of the academies programme.