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Registrar quits amid row over 'donation for place at Stowe School'

A member of staff at a prestigious private school has resigned after being filmed by an undercover reporter apparently discussing donations from a foreign family in return for a place for their child.

David Fletcher, registrar of Stowe School at the time, said that one family helped to secure a place for their child by donating £100,000 towards a project, a claim denied by the £34,000-a-year Buckinghamshire boarding school.

"Everything I say is going to start sounding a bit dodgy," said Mr Fletcher, according to a recorded posted online by the Daily Telegraph.

"But if it was the case that somebody was keen to work with the school, and one was aware of that, then it is always useful to know, as you say, if there are marginal decisions."

During the meeting, the undercover reporter posed as an agent for a Russian oligarch keen to get his son a place at Stowe, whose alumni include Sir Richard Branson and two of Prince Harry's ex-girlfriends, Cressida Bonas and Chelsy Davy.

Mr Fletcher told her that though all pupils have to be able to pass a test, if her client's son was a borderline case, a donation would be helpful.

He said: "I always say to my headmaster, you know, because he's terrific but in some ways he's a bit naive, in the sense that, I say to him you just don't realise how things operate elsewhere, and also you just don't understand that some of these people are rich beyond Croesus."

He added: "It's a big growth industry, because as private education prices itself out of the market with British families, many schools are having to go down that international route just to say afloat."

Anthony Wallersteiner, headmaster at Stowe, said: "There is absolutely no truth in these allegations. Mr Fletcher was acting independently of the school and now bitterly regrets making these false claims.

"He confirms that he has no evidence, nor is he aware of any situation where a potential parent has made a donation to secure a place for a child at the school. He resigned with immediate effect when the school began its own investigation and is no longer an employee of the school."

He continued: "I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that Stowe would never allow a donation of any kind or size to have influence over the allocation of a place at the school. We pride ourselves on operating to the highest professional and ethical standards."

The investigation comes in the week that private schools offered to create 10,000 free places for poorer students if the Government helps fund them.

The proposal, by the Independent Schools Council (ISC), suggested the Government pays no more than the cost of a state school place per pupil - thought to be around £5,500 a year - with the private sector paying the rest.

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