I write on behalf of the Governing Bodies' Association in response to 'Anti-tax funded independent schools' letter (Write Back, April 22) you published about Northern Ireland's Voluntary Schools.
The contents of this letter are so wildly inaccurate, not to say offensive, that I doubt if your readers will be taken in by them, but it is nevertheless worth making some basic points clear. There are 52 voluntary grammar schools in Northern Ireland. All of them are funded by the Department of Education according to a formula that is broadly the same as that used for all other schools. All are under the control of governing bodies whose membership reflects their very different foundations, but includes elected parents, teachers and normally nominees of the Department of Education.
All are fully accountable to the Department for their spending of the funds they receive and their annual accounts are independently and rigorously audited.
They are required to follow the directions of the Department in relation to teaching, learning and assessment and to implement the same policies in respect of matters as varied as child protection, admissions, complaints, suspensions and the curriculum as every other grant-aided school. None is therefore completely 'independent' in the sense of schools in England.
The quality of the teaching and learning they provide is inspected in exactly the same way as it is in every other kind of school.
Voluntary grammar schools, like other kinds of schools in Northern Ireland, have an enviable reputation for offering high quality education open to all who meet their published admissions criteria, and they do so without asking parents to pay the kinds of costs that are found in the independent sector elsewhere in these islands. The Governing Bodies' Association, which represents the 52 schools in the voluntary grammar sector, is determined to make every effort to enable Northern Ireland to continue to have strong schools with a clear academic focus, in the interests of children in Northern Ireland. It is committed to working with all other interests to find a way forward for schooling here that allows this objective to be achieved.
Hon Secretary, Governing Bodies' Association