LEADERS of distinguished Oxfordshire schools have defied Labour's plan to scrap private education, and said 'destroying' the sector is not the answer.

Heads of some of the county's most renowned schools have acknowledged inequalities in the system, but instead stressed a need for more synergy between the state and independent sectors.

At the Labour Party Conference on Sunday, delegates voted to 'integrate' private schools into the state sector, removing their charitable status and redistributing their assets.

READ MORE: Labour's next manifesto to commit to integrate private schools

Speaking on the Today Programme yesterday, party leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared to back down on the controversial plan to seize land, but maintained that their charitable status should be removed.

Stephen Jones, warden of St Edward's School in Summertown, said: "Britain’s independent schools have a global reputation for excellence and are a resource that should be valued by politicians, not closed down.

"It is folly to think that tearing down successful schools will improve equality in education for all of the nation’s young people.

"Rather than good schools being destroyed, it is our hope that all schools, whatever their setting, will continue to work together to create life-affirming opportunities for as many young people as possible."

St Edward's School pupils helping out at Fair Close Community Farm on the edge of the school grounds, where they work alongside the charity FarmAbility

He said the school, better known as Teddies, is 'serious' about its responsibility in the wider community.

Mr Jones added: "We work hard to involve our pupils in the wider life of the city of Oxford and we share our facilities as often as we can – we currently work with over 50 local sports teams, community groups and charities.

"These are mutually beneficial partnerships: along the way, our pupils learn more about life, form friendships beyond school and, we hope, develop an enduring habit of making a positive contribution to society."

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The school also sponsors The North Wall Arts Centre nearby, enabling the facility to offer free, immersive work experience placements to talented young people.

Rebecca Dougall, headmistress at St Helen and St Katharine girls' school in Abingdon, said the proposal will pile 'huge resources pressure on an already over-stretched state sector.'

She added: "We share the belief that more funding is critical for state schools and that this should be the key policy focus for politicians, in order to answer the calls of teachers, parents and students.

"Abolishing private schools will achieve nothing concrete in terms of improved outcomes for students across the education sector.

"Instead, we believe that schools working together is the best way to create opportunities for students and draw on the great strengths of both sectors."

Abingdon School's headmaster Michael Windsor said he agreed with Labour in that education should be improved for all.

However, he added: "I disagree that abolishing independent schools is the way to do it.

"We will not improve the state system by destroying private schools and adding to the funding pressures and over-subscription that we already see in some schools.

"The way forward is effective partnerships between the state and independent sectors, and this is something we are wholly committed to at Abingdon."

The school runs projects for the benefit of the wider community, including the Abingdon Science Partnership.

It provides schools of all types with visits, equipment loans and use of Abingdon's laboratory, and has been shortlisted for several awards.

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Helen Pike, master of Magdalen College School in Oxford, highlighted how the school is partnered with more than 140 organisations across Oxfordshire and runs outreach projects that have benefited thousands of young people.

She said: “It is a pity that the debate has been dominated by comments which range from the intemperate to the illegal and the downright silly - where are the children in all of this?

"Fee-paying parents are also tax-payers: MCS does not receive any subsidy from the state. Ten per cent of our pupils receive substantial bursaries."

Anneliese Dodds, Labour MP for Oxford East, said she understands why there are calls for change.

She said: "Many people I’ve talked to are shocked to hear that Eton receives the same tax breaks as Barnardos.

"While some private schools are working hard to reach out to local communities and partner with state schools - including some in Oxford - this is extremely uneven, and just hasn’t happened quickly enough.

"At a time when state schools are really struggling for funds, we do need to look carefully at the balance between state and private provision, which currently seems to be stacked too much in private schools’ favour."