Clause 42 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill had stated that ‘Academy Proprietor’s ie Academy Trusts would now become what is termed   ‘exempt’ charities. Exempt charities are charities which do not register with the Charity Commission. Not all charities it transpires have to register with the Commission.  These charities are already regulated or supervised by or are accountable to another body (known as a principal regulator) and, so in order to avoid dual regulation, they are not supervised by the Charity Commission, as well.

Under these proposed changes, academies would still have been subjected to charity law of course but would be answerable directly to the Education Secretary, rather than the Commission. So, Academies would no longer have to apply to the Charity Commission to register or seek its permission, for instance, before undertaking certain activities or amending aspects of the governing document, nor would they have to submit an annual report or a copy of the Academy Trust’s annual accounts to the Commission each year. The Tories were in favour of this move as it frees Academies from what they see as burdensome bureaucracy. Michael Gove, the Shadow Education Secretary said “A Conservative Government would allow academies to be exempt charities.”

However the Charity Commission was against the move all along as they saw it as undermining both transparency and accountability and more generally the charity brand.  And the Government at the eleventh hour seems to have listened to the Commission, and had second thoughts. The Government now says it is satisfied that registering with the commission did not represent a burden for these schools. So there goes the exempt status.

Interestingly though, although the Commission waxes eloquent about transparency and accountability many quasi public bodies such as, ironically, the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust ,( the body that supports Academies and  is funded by the taxpayer), use charity status to protect themselves from detailed public scrutiny.  The SSAT is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, though managing and responsible for shed loads of taxpayers’ money while accused by private and not for profits of anti-competitive behaviour in the market.  Transparent and accountable? Come again!

Meanwhile, more generally, quangos in their various guises continue to prosper .Public spending on quangos, according to the Cabinet Office, has soared by nearly £10 billion in the past two years and we have not a clue whether  or not most of these secretive organisations  deliver value for money.


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