Why in buggery should they?

Private schools should support their state counterparts instead of operating in ‘splendid isolation’, according to the head of Ofsted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said that independent headteachers should be helping struggling comprehensives nearby before opening schools in other countries.

Tesco should make sure it opens in Dudley before it tries Dallas should it? Rolls Royce should make damn sure there\’s a water turbine in Dursley before sending the salesmen to Delhi? Unilever should make sure every baby in Brum has Pampers before selling them in Durban?

What fucking nonsense is this?

Blimey, if we\’re going to have a \”right wing\” education revolution could we at least start with getting the people running it up to speed with the idea of free markets?

28 comments on “Why in buggery should they?

  1. But private schools are charities – they don’t have the same goals as Tesco, Rolls Royce or Unilever.

  2. Pechorin,

    But private schools are charities – they don’t have the same goals as Tesco, Rolls Royce or Unilever.

    No, but charities are free market organisations. What makes them work is that they do successful things and people throw money at them because of it.

    But here’s the problem with his statement: no-one with any experience of working with the state sector would volunteer their services to help it to try to achieve an objective (educating kids) when there’s a way of doing it outside the state.

  3. Well, it’s their own fault. They’re happy to pretend to be “charities” and get the benefits of priveleged status, are they not?

    They need to either get into the free market, or stop whinging. Like banks, and other faux-market organisations.

  4. Charities collect money from well wishers and give it away. They don’t provide a service for a fee. That isn’t charity.

    If you collect donations, buy soup with the donations and give it to tramps, that’s charity. If you manufacture soup and sell it to people who want soup, you’re a business. Not a charity.

  5. Ian, you’re free to hold your own personal definition of what charity is. The law says the advancement of education is a charitable purpose though, and that’s why private schools qualify as charities. Same thing for colleges and universities.

  6. A charity is simply a tax-exempt corporation. In the UK, there is a limited number of heads under which an organisation may qualify as a charity. These are called charitable objects. Among them is education. Another is religion. The whole sector is rampant with corruption and nepotism. The charitable objects beloved of 18th and 19th century philanthropists have less and less relevance in a society that doesn’t need, for example, religious inculcation to ‘improve’ it or educational provision when there is a free alternative available universally both to those who can’t afford to pay for basic education and for those who can.

    The real point of a charity these days is that the trustees can award themselves a salary. Jobs for the boys once again… Everyone on the books is paid before the so-called beneficiaries see a penny or any benefit. What was once a way to protect and encourage genuine philanthropy by industrialists is now a stopover point en route to the new political and lobbyist ‘careers’ such as parliamentarian. Highly sophisticated, highly paid social networking. Private schools are only slightly different.

  7. We’re not talking about “charitable purposes”. Anything that helps somebody else can be a charitable purpose. Providing them with food, for instance. So Sainsburys are fulfilling a charitable purpose. But they aren’t a charity, because they sell food to the people who pay for it, rather than seeking donations then providing food to the poor free of charge.

    We’re not discussing what the law says. It’s about whether the law is an ass, as it often is. Many of the organisations currently allowed to be registered as charities do nothing charitable; schools for the wealthy are one such anomaly.

    They charge customers for a service. They’re businesses.

  8. Skilful, there is a lot of corruption and nepotism in the charity sector these days, but I don’t think many (any?) people are getting rich out of running private schools in this country. Once you factor in pension entitlements, your average teacher in the average state school is probably better off financially than his typical private sector counterpart (and definitely better off for job security), although most private school teachers I know aren’t in it for the money and simply prefer having pupils who are motivated to learn in an environment that nurtures excellence rather than the lowest common denominator.

    Private education is a subject that attracts an incredible amount of bile and myth-making from some quarters, especially the sort of people who, on learning what school you send your kids to, feel the need to give you their very strong opinion on why private schools are bad and the people who go to them are mostly horrible and how their brilliant child could have gotten into one but they didn’t want him to grow up to be a snob and anyway the local comp has all his friends there, and it wasn’t like they couldn’t afford it or that the kid wasn’t bright enough to pass the entrance exam etc. etc. while you smile politely and resist the urge to smack them.

    The boring truth is most private schools are not full of toffs whose parents are rich, they’re mostly hard working middle class and working class parents who sacrifice holidays, new cars, and bigger houses for their children’s education, often directly motivated to do so after having experienced the routine misery and failure of the state sector themselves as youngsters.

    Most private schools aren’t full of future Prime Ministers, future top barristers, or future captains of industry who will be able to ruthlessly use the old boy network for professional advancement and/or sinister Machiavellian networking in later life. They’re mainly full of kids who are intellectually above average, do a lot of homework, and aspire to some sort of middle class professional role in later life.

    Most private schools aren’t lavishly funded compared with comprehensive schools. Apart from Eton and a handful of other favoured institutions of the elite most private schools in this country don’t have money thrown at them the way the state sector has in recent years.

    As far as I’m aware the charitable status of British private schools isn’t some sort of scam via which the trustees rake off huge salaries. To put it into perspective, the head of Ofsted makes £200,000 a year plus pension. Outside a chosen few top schools like Eton you won’t find many headmasters in private schools earning that sort of money.

  9. Yes, and there’s no reason why on God’s green Earth a University should be considered a “charity”.

    A free school, funded by donations, for the poor of the parish? That’s a charity. An expensive luxury school, which parents pay for in the hope of plugging their kids into the elite network? Not a charity. Really. It’s doing nothing charitable at all.

  10. Steve, I’m afraid you missed my point altogether. All too often, discussions congeal into the redundant old left vs right polemics. I am not interested in the pros and cons of the yuppy train. I myself attended both private and state schools in my childhood, and I know well the differences and respective strengths of both systems. In case you’re interested, I think the state school system when it streams above average pupils it turns out demonstrably average results, whereas the private school system can take an average pupil and give them a bit more of a push to achieve an above-average result. I agree that the Etons and Marlboroughs are in a different league from the rest of the independent schools, being in effect the grammar schools of the independent schools sector. So your protracted defense of private schools was a bit of a waste – sorry.

    I am however highly critical of the Charities Act and the charitable sector as a whole. When you look at the history of this sector, it’s obvious it was designed for the particular social environment of the early modern period in the history of this country. Private schools simply exploit charitable status because it’s present there at the moment as a legitimate legal loophole to avoid paying tax. This is unjustified and they ought to pay tax because a divergence has developed between the legal definition of ‘charity’ and the popular usage of the term. When people speak of charity they don’t mean, for example, the state schools system. It’s regarded as a right and as part of the social contract. Parents don’t consider themselves recipients of charitable aid, when they send their children to a state school. Likewise, it’s equally ridiculous to say that more well-heeled parents sending their children to private school (and paying for it) are benefiting from ‘charity’. The legal definition needs updating to close this taxation loophole by excluding private schools from charitable status.

  11. Skilful Art

    A charity is simply a tax-exempt corporation. In the UK, there is a limited number of heads under which an organisation may qualify as a charity. These are called charitable objects. Among them is education. Another is religion.

    What profit does Eton make? Even if it became a real corporation and was not exempt from tax, what would it pay given it does not make a profit? VAT?

    The whole sector is rampant with corruption and nepotism.

    I would have thought that applied to the state sector far more than it did to the charitable school sector.

    The charitable objects beloved of 18th and 19th century philanthropists have less and less relevance in a society that doesn’t need, for example, religious inculcation to ‘improve’ it or educational provision when there is a free alternative available universally both to those who can’t afford to pay for basic education and for those who can.

    Actually if you opened your eyes and looked around you, you would see we do actually need that religious education to improve society. Now more than ever. And the point is that the “free” alternative is utter crap. As someone who has had to deal with graduates from the state sector, take my word for it – they are unemployable. Britain only survives because of the independent school system. If that closed we would be Nigeria by this time next Thursday.

  12. Isn’t it a point that British or at least English schools are not allowed to operate for profit? They should be, and then you could have this open debate, but under the current priggish rules, it all sounds weird.

    Not sure if there is an option for the schools to be not-a-charity but still not-for-profit; but anyway i find it hard to fault them when the for-profit option is not allowed at all.

    I live in Dubai – lots of successful, effective, decent for profit schools here, cheap, middling and expensive.

  13. Actually if you opened your eyes and looked around you, you would see we do actually need that religious education to improve society.

    Tony Blair, devoutly Christian. Gordon Brown, devoutly Christian. David Blunkett, devoutly Christian. Paul Boateng, devoutly Christian.

    This isn’t looking good for your argument, SMFS.

  14. I think Ian B has a point. Let’s stop ‘charities’ from doing things that aren’t the ‘give to the poor’ kind of stuff.

    The great result of this is that it would bring an end to Oxfam’s pernicious lobbying department, and end Christian Aid’s adverts denouncing ‘free trade’ etc. No more charities that only exist to pressure governments to spend more on their chosen goals. Brilliant.

  15. Ian B

    Tony Blair, devoutly Christian. Gordon Brown, devoutly Christian. David Blunkett, devoutly Christian. Paul Boateng, devoutly Christian.

    Tony Blair is a moral poser. He clearly is not remotely religious in any sane sense. He would not have taken Communion before becoming a Catholic if he had the remotest respect for his proclaimed religion. Nor would he have suggested he knew what Jesus thought better than the Pope and the entire Church.

    Brown and Blunkett are religious? This is news to me. Given their well known Leftist youths. Blunkett’s People’s Republic of whateversh!tholeupnorthitwas was actually Christian was it?

    This isn’t looking good for your argument, SMFS.

    Even the religious are not very religious these days.

  16. Ian & Skilful – I’d be sympathetic to the idea of removing charitable status from independent schools if it was part of a wider reform of charities and schools.

    E.g. as Ambrose says, why not let schools be set up for profit?

    To that I’d add allowing a tax deduction or some sort of education voucher for parents who take their children out of the state sector. There is no moral reason why they should be forced to pay twice.

    And sure, make all colleges and universities pay tax too. It might push fees up a bit in the short term, but there’s no rational reason to discriminate between secondary and tertiary education for tax purposes.

    But strangely, people who demand the retraction of charitable status from independent schools rarely seem to have any wider plan than harming private schools and the sort of people they imagine send their kids there. It’s almost as if they haven’t thought it through.

  17. I went to BSP (the same independent school Beckham sends his kids to). From my experience of the place, they have everything. Every type of sports club, every opportunity to develop the smallest of natural talents to its full potential and a strong emphasis on all-round personal development. They have absolutely everything you could wish for in a school. They are not short on resources. However, it’s not a selective school. They do not stream at 11+ or 12+. As a result the GCSEs and A-levels and final university destinations of the pupils there is only what I would call average or above average. Most of my classmates ended up going to middle of the road universities and redbricks; in my opinion a poor show. Conversely, the remaining grammar schools in the UK (contrary to popular belief there are still a few around) after selecting more capable pupils emphasize academic performance alone. They throw all their resources at that. Yet many of them just turn out average results when you look at the league tables. There is obviously scope for improvement in the mainstream rung of independents and the selective state schools. But my main point is that the independent schools sector can easily afford to pay tax. You could argue that their very existence relieves the burden on the exchequer by reducing the demand for state schools. However, extending this logic to its natural conclusion, this would mean, for example, we should reduce the income tax payable by people who don’t own motor vehicles. I just think it’s a legitimate avenue to raise taxes.

    Regarding Ian B’s point about religious education, I would point out that when the charities sector developed in our legal history, religious objects did not encompass giving people knowledge of religious traditions but rather drilling them with what was thought to be a sound moral basis in conformism (the old meaning of conformism, i.e. CoE). Naturally our standards of moral and ethical behaviour have changed a lot since then (as we would expect, in practice moral standards are transient). So it’s no longer understood to be the same thing as before. There’s no question of winding the clock back either.

  18. SMFS,

    I guess you’re working for some two-bit shitty company that gets shitty graduates, then. What’s their degrees in, art history or sociology?

    I’ve worked in a number of computer departments of a number of companies. The people who keep the water flowing out of your taps, planes in the air, food on the shelves and petrol at the station are nearly all from the state sector.

    I’ve worked with a few privately-schooled software developers and I’d describe them as average. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates both had part private education, but most of the stuff you’re typing on was written by us grubby fucking state-schoolers.

  19. Skilful Art

    But my main point is that the independent schools sector can easily afford to pay tax.

    That is not even remotely a sensible approach. Some schools in the independent sector probably could. But we do not tax assets, we tax profits. We do not say that because some little old woman is living in a house worth a fortune we ought to slap her with a random tax demand. Do these schools make a profit? Perhaps like Dubai schools should be allowed to. But the ones we have do not. What can you tax?

    religious objects did not encompass giving people knowledge of religious traditions but rather drilling them with what was thought to be a sound moral basis in conformism (the old meaning of conformism, i.e. CoE).

    Sorry but what do you think that means? By any sane description is not what religious schools actually did. Given they tended to give a solid basis to religious traditions.

    Naturally our standards of moral and ethical behaviour have changed a lot since then (as we would expect, in practice moral standards are transient).

    That sounds like a good sound bite but I doubt it is true. Rather, like the God of the Copyright Headings, moral standards tend to be universal and long lasting. What you are seeing is Western society in the midst of their collective suicide having thrown those values out the window. And so we are being replaced by people with more traditional values.

    There’s no question of winding the clock back either.

    Sure. And instead of little British children learning about Jesus and Saint Francis, we will have little Urdu-speaking children learning about Muhammed and the Taliban. Way to go there by the way. A great improvement.

    Tim Almond

    I guess you’re working for some two-bit shitty company that gets shitty graduates, then. What’s their degrees in, art history or sociology?

    I have had to work with Oxbridge students. And yes their degrees were mostly that end of the spectrum. And yes, those that did not come from the independent sector or at least a Grammar, were crap. My comments are not based on the bottom end of the feeding pool.

    I’ve worked in a number of computer departments of a number of companies. The people who keep the water flowing out of your taps, planes in the air, food on the shelves and petrol at the station are nearly all from the state sector.

    I will make an exception if they are old enough. Then they usually went to a Grammar. And it pains me as I went to what would now be called a Comprehensive and we loathed those that did not. Although to be fair I did get a pretty pathetic education there. But it is still true. Comps turn out illiterates.

    Perhaps Computer scientists are different because it is not cool – and because I suspect it is taught so poorly that the vast majority are essentially self-taught anyway.

  20. Well, if they’re not going to make a profit, why do they want charity status then? Could it be the massive subsidies on, say, business rates? The right to, er, make a profit if it’s less than 10% of your activity and not pay tax on that? The right to, er, have a trading surplus. Which isn’t a profit. Oh no. The zero rated VAT?

    All of the above? We come back to the question, again, of why a business selling schooling gets them, but not one selling, say, food. Might it be that most of our ruling class (a) went to these institutions and (b) sends their own offspring to them? Might that be it?

    As to morals being “universal and long lasting”, well, yes. Except those morals, if we look at history across cultures, are stuff like institutional slavery, routine infanticide and murder, plunder and rape of outgroups. I’m rather pleased we escaped that moral landscape, myself.

  21. Ian B

    Well, if they’re not going to make a profit, why do they want charity status then? Could it be the massive subsidies on, say, business rates? The right to, er, make a profit if it’s less than 10% of your activity and not pay tax on that? The right to, er, have a trading surplus. Which isn’t a profit. Oh no. The zero rated VAT?

    I am sure all of those will help. But suppose that they did pay them. How would that help? Well some of the more marginal schools would go out of business. The rest would raise their fees slightly. Would it change much? Not that I see except we would have less independent education. Which is a public bad given we are so dependent on their students to run the country.

    We come back to the question, again, of why a business selling schooling gets them, but not one selling, say, food.

    Depends on who is selling food and what for. Plenty of charities do sell food from school cake bakes to the Hari Krishnas. Well they mostly give it away. Should they all be taxed?

    Might it be that most of our ruling class (a) went to these institutions and (b) sends their own offspring to them? Might that be it?

    From Macmillan to Blair we had only Grammar school educated Prime Ministers. They did not change the system presumably because they could see a logic to it.

    As to morals being “universal and long lasting”, well, yes. Except those morals, if we look at history across cultures, are stuff like institutional slavery, routine infanticide and murder, plunder and rape of outgroups. I’m rather pleased we escaped that moral landscape, myself.

    What on Earth makes you think we have escaped that moral landscape? Even if I ignored the fact that Christians, for entirely Christian reasons, were largely behind the end of routine infanticide and institutionalised slavery. Not to mention rape and plunder.

    Are our intellectual superiors fine with every single thing you listed as long as it is done by their side and not the Right? Institutional slavery? Well of course the Left was and is fine with the Gulag. About as institutional as you can get. The hero of the New Left is of course Zygmunt Bauman who played a direct role in the Gulag. Doesn’t bother them at all. As long as Pol Pot was in power, he was praised by academics who are all still in good standing and epmloyed.

    Which also deals with the murder part. In fact retired terrorists usually get jobs at universities like Bill Ayers. No moral qualms from those universities at all.

    Routine infanticide? We have just seen Planned Parenthood defend it in the Kermit Gosnell case – and presumably it happens all the time in the UK, we just do not have a powerful anti-abortion lobby so everyone ignores it. Barack Obama twice voted down a bill that would have protected those products of abortion that were born alive. He still sits in the White House.

    Plunder and rape of outgroups? Well ignoring the fact that Stalin was never so popular as he was just after he let his Army plunder and rape their way across Europe, there are any number of Islamist groups who assert their right to rape and plunder. The GIA in Algeria and needless to say the Taliban. The Guardian has spent the last decade giving them control of their opinion pages.

    We have not escaped that world one little bit. The fact is highly intelligent, well educated people have no problems justifying everything on your list. If we do not do it it is because of the waning influence of Christianity and the liberal world that grew out of the Victorian puritanism.

    I only pick the Left because it is relatively uncontroversial here and because the Right tends to be conservative – they are less quick to embrace the new world of rape and murder than the Left. But I doubt there is much difference.

  22. SMFS-

    I’m a libertarian. I don’t want taxes at all. If we have them, they should be minimal. What we’re discussing is why some pay, and others don’t. If we had a tax code in which, say, only brunettes and redheads paid taxes, it would be reasonable to ask why the blondes are exempt.

    (If we then observed that the ruling elite were predominantly blonde, we may speculate regarding that correlation).

    THere is a good case (made frequently by Tim) for not taxing corporations at all. But if we *do* tax them, there is no reason to exempt school corporations. That’s the point.

    So if we make the case that charity should be exempt (because it is selfless good work, a plausible moral argument) then we must limit that to actual charity- which does not include a business that sells its services for a fee. These schools are not doing “good works”; at least no more than any other business which provides the community with a service to those who can afford it. They do not collect donations and give them (either in money, or in kind) to others. They are simply businesses selling a service to the people who pay for it.

    I really don’t see why the kind of intelligent people who comment here can’t grasp that distinction. It seems really rather clear to me.

  23. Sorry, forgot this bit-

    So anyway, the further point is that if you are in a position where your business is benefitting from various State awarded benefits and subsidies, you’re in no position to complain when the same State comes knocking and says you owe them a favour. Like, by actually doing something charitable with your charity status (“helping other schools”).

  24. Ian B

    I really don’t see why the kind of intelligent people who comment here can’t grasp that distinction. It seems really rather clear to me.

    I can grasp the distinction. I would be happy to see schools produce a profit. But actually they don’t.

    Given the situation we are in now, I do not dispute your points. But really, is what Britain really needs right now *less* of the only sort of education that works? Even more taxes on middle class parents through higher school fees? And even more complicated charitable sector?

    Let me concede all your points. Well most of them. Some schools do actually ask for donations and they give them, in the form of education, to the children of, in the main, their fellow believers who could not otherwise afford it.

    However I am with Grover whatshisname. All new taxes should be resisted on principle. We do not have a revenue raising problem, we have an incontinent spending problem. We should be working to reduce company tax, get rid of the small and annoying taxes on business, simplify and flatten.

    And at the same time the British have always been pragmatic. Even if you are right in theory – and I am perfectly willing to agree you are in the main – we need to look at what works in practice. In practice taxing independent schools would have no positive effect whatsoever and a whole range of negative effects. So sod the theory and don’t tax the independent school sector.

  25. Ian B

    So anyway, the further point is that if you are in a position where your business is benefitting from various State awarded benefits and subsidies, you’re in no position to complain when the same State comes knocking and says you owe them a favour. Like, by actually doing something charitable with your charity status (“helping other schools”).

    Well you are in no positiion to resist, but I think you can and should complain. After all, haven’t we had this conversation before? About people on welfare? People on welfare are utterly powerless to resist any humiliating demand the State makes of them. Jump through this hoop, p!ss in this cup, dance Clown, dance! But some people get upset when I point that out.

    The solution is to keep the State out of education and people off the dole. Not for the State to have even more control over the industry.

  26. SMFS,

    the difference is that people on welfare are already in receipt of charity because they are (theoretically) down on their luck. So, to use a biblical analogy, it’s like the good samaritan demanding a dance from the wounded traveller, rather than just being a, um, good samaritan ;)

    The interesting point there being that Attlee clearly stated that his primary motivation for the welfare state was to free the needy from private charities making them dance.

    But these fake charities are not down on their luck; they are simply getting an advantage not awarded to other businesses. That really isn’t qualitatively the same.

    As an aside, it’s worth noting that many shopkeepers are rather angry at the proliferation of “charity” shops, for much the same reason.

    FWIW, my own point of view is simple; we should abolish charitable status, period. And corporation tax. And business rates. Which would neatly level the playing field.

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