Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has called upon private schools to do more to support staff in state school education jobs in raising pupil attainment.
Speaking at the Sunday Times Education Festival at Wellington College in Berkshire, Sir Michael highlighted examples of independent schools that have formed links with state sector counterparts.
These include Wellington College, which established the state-funded Wellington Academy in Wiltshire in 2009, Highgate School, which has links with 21 other London schools and Eton, co-sponsor of the London Academy of Excellence in Newham.
Yet Sir Michael added that Ofsted had looked at 30 leading public schools whose pupils had attained almost perfect GCSE table scores over the past two years and found that, of the 2,000 state schools within ten miles of them, 300 were rated as less than good.
He therefore issued a "direct challenge" to the heads of other private schools to talk more about how they could support state sector schools than they currently do and then "translate that in to action".
Sir Michael added that state school head teachers faced many issues those working in the private sector did not, asserting: "I worry about these challenges and so should the head teachers of our public schools.
"The conferment of privilege should not denote exclusivity, but an implied duty to help the wider community. A fundamentally unequal society is no good for any of us in the long term."
Alternatively, he warned, those independent sector institutions that opt to remain in "splendid isolation" simply fuel arguments against private schools holding charitable status, from which they receive tax benefits.
Antony Seldon, master of Wellington College, subsequently praised Sir Michael's speech for setting the agenda in "ending the stagnant division between the state and the independent sector", BBC News reported.
However, Matthew Burgess, general secretary of the Independent Schools Council, accused the head of the education watchdog of being unaware of the extent of collaboration that already exists between private and state sector schools.
Posted by Tim Colman