Patrick Derham, Head Master of Westminster School and Adam Pettitt, Head of Highgate, discuss why children from independent schools perform better in their careers.

For so long there has been an alumni network that can help an ex-pupil to 'get on' in the world, however is this starting to change? Is this network starting to open up to all who are keen to work hard and to further themselves in their careers and not just to those who went to the 'right' schools or universities?

Patrick Derham

Patrick Derham has been Head Master of Westminster School since September 2014. After studying History at Cambridge he taught at Cheam and Radley before becoming Head Master of Solihull School in September 1996 and Rugby in September 2001.

Passionate about widening access Patrick set up the Arnold Foundation for Rugby School in 2003 which provides a boarding education at Rugby to under-privileged children and was instrumental in the setting up of the SpringBoard Bursary Foundation, a new national charity closely modelled on the Arnold Foundation, in November 2012. He is also Deputy Chairman of Trustees of IntoUniversity and a Trustee of the Gladstone Library.  At Westminster Patrick is closely involved with Harris Westminster Sixth Form, an academically selective free school which has as its key objective to transform the education of the most able London students.  

Patrick co-edited Liberating Learning Widening Participation with Michael Worton (2010) and Cultural Olympians with John Taylor (2013) and edited Loyal Dissent (2016).

Adam Pettitt

Adam Pettitt, Head of Highgate since 2006, was educated in state schools in Sussex and read Modern Languages at Oxford; he is married to Barbara, also a French teacher (at Highgate), and has three children who attend the school. He has taught at Eton College, Oundle and Abingdon, and was deputy head at Norwich School. He has overseen Highgate’s move to co-education in its three (pre-preparatory, junior and senior) schools, and its shift in admissions to the senior school from 13+ to 11+. Highgate has hit the press for its interest in pupils’ good mental health, its LBGT club and for the Head’s clash with Sir Michael Wilshaw over ‘public benefit’.

Highgate has strong and well-developed teaching partnerships with forty local state schools focusing on literacy, maths, physics and chemistry. Adam believes that parents need and enjoy reassurance that school type is much less significant than they may think and spends time trying to take as much pressure out of the frenzied admissions process as possible, often highlighting the excellent quality of his competitors’ education, not least at Westminster whose Head he thinks is inspirational.

Beyond this, and his obsessional running, he chairs the HMC Inspection Sub-Committee, teaches French and linguistics to all his Year 9s and is in the urban context of North London (obsessively) passionate about the transformational impact of extra-curricular activities where these place pupils’ personal development at the heart of the programme’s thinking. He thinks that co-education works best where issues of equality are managed actively and those of real or perceived inequality are challenged. He will often remind anyone still listening that the way to choose an exam syllabus is to determine the least distorting effect it will have on what you wish to teach and how.