He said independent schools had close links with the NHS, and their policies
were highly regulated. â€œThe inspectorate which closely monitors the policies
and performance of schools in our highly regulated sector will be astonished
to learn that independent schools have the autonomy to be the law unto
themselves,â€ Dr Ray said.
Andrew Fleck, the headmaster of Sedbergh School, accused Prof Ashton of
â€œpeddling emotive opinions without regard for accuracyâ€. He said: â€œIt is
utterly without foundation to suggest that the school is cavalier in its
management of pupil health or that boarding schools pose a risk to local
Mr Fleck claimed all pupils were registered with one local NHS centre, and
that medical records were sent to the school before any child joined.
Prof Ashton said his article in The Lancet had not intended to â€œpick a fightâ€
with Sedbergh School, which he said had handled the outbreak well, once it
â€œRather, it seemed appropriate to draw attention to apparent weaknesses in
immunisation and vaccination programmes in the independent school sector, in
the light of serious concerns about the vulnerability of the whole
population to epidemics of measles and mumps,â€ he said.
The NHS has embarked on a â€œcatch-upâ€ MMR campaign targeting a million children
who have not been vaccinated.