A former equalities chief has hit out at two leading private schools for refusing a millionaire’s offer to pay for £1m in scholarships for poor white pupils.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, accused Dulwich College and Winchester College of “self-righteous guilt-tripping”.
The schools reportedly turned down the gift from philanthropist Sir Bryan Thwaites, who attended both and intended to leave the money in his will.
He wanted to help white boys from disadvantaged backgrounds because they perform worse at school than their counterparts from other ethnic groups, according to the newspaper.
But Mr Phillips also said stereotyping had led black students to be seen as “perennial victims in need of support” while “white people are regarded as potential oppressors who deserve to be either hectored or neglected”.
“The people behind these decisions will have thought of themselves as progressive. But their approach is far from enlightened,” he wrote.
Mr Phillips said the 2010 Equality Act, which he helped author while head of the commission, did not make it illegal for disadvantaged white students to receive financial help.
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“Contrary to what some 'progressives' seem to believe, the Equality Act is not the judicial preserve of people of colour. It is not a kind of 'be nice to blacks' charter but a measure that aims to bring fairness for all,” he continued.
“Yet that reality is being ignored by organisations such as Dulwich and Winchester. The two schools were too terrified of accusations of bigotry to accept Sir Bryan's generosity.
“In their anxious minds, the very use of the term 'white' probably conjured up images of the far-right and aggressive English nationalism.”
On Monday Dr Joe Spence, master of Dulwich College, said he is “resistant” to donations “made with any ethnic or religious criteria”.
He added: “Bursaries are an engine of social mobility and they should be available to all who pass our entrance examinations, irrespective of their background.”
Sir Bryan intended to give £400,000 to south London’s Dulwich College and £800,000 to Winchester College in Hampshire, according to The Times.
A spokeswoman for Winchester College said that “acceptance of a bequest of this nature would neither be in the interests of the school as a charity nor the specific interests of those it aims to support through its work”.
She added: “Notwithstanding legal exceptions to the relevant legislation, the school does not see how discrimination on grounds of a boy’s colour could ever be compatible with its values.”