Charitable schools

Daily Telegraph 5 June

SIR – Alan Milburn, an adviser to the Government on social mobility, wants to re-open the issue of the charitable status of private schools (report, June 2).

Mr Milburn memorably said that the latest Charities Act would have failed if at the end of the process independent schools kept their charitable status. It is of course not up to him to decide such an issue. In 2011 the Upper Tribunal ruled that it is for a fee-charging charity to decide how best to meet its charitable obligations, not for the Charity Commission, the tribunal or the courts. The commission agreed to leave it to schools to decide how to provide benefits to the community and will act against them only if they receive complaints with evidence that they are abusing charitable status.

Removing charitable status for these schools could decrease their numbers, but would also serve to make the sector more elitist, less inclusive and less prone to helping the state sector. These schools resent interference from politicians and value their independence. It would also mean thousands of pupils looking for places in a hard-pressed state system. And, if they lost their charitable status, a cull of other charities which provide less public benefit might follow.

Patrick Watson

London SW8



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