Private schools and the Charities Commission

Yes, yes, I know, educating children without charging the State for doing so: that should be enough to ensure charitable status for a school. However, of course, our Lords and Masters don\’t think that way, this we know.

So schools are now being brow beaten, through the threat of losing their charitable status (and no, they can\’t just give it up, they would have to liquidate to do so), into offering more bursaries. However, that\’s not the scary bit:

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: \”It is not correct to state that the Charity Commission\’s initial public benefit assessments focused only on the provision of means-tested bursaries. We have been very clear throughout this process and in the reports published today that, although fee reductions are an obvious way of making the services of a fee-charging charity more widely accessible, this is not the only means of achieving this.

\”When conducting these assessments, all the activity that the charities engage in which is related to their aims and meets the principles of public benefit was taken into consideration; this includes partnerships with local communities and state schools. We have not taken, and will not take, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to public benefit. Every charitable independent school is different and there is no benchmark for the minimum or maximum amount for bursaries. Equally, there is no formula for calculating the number of bursaries any one school should provide.\”

Those last three sentences.

\”We won\’t tell you what you need to do to keep charitable status. We\’ll just sit here smug in our offices and keep prodding you, without revealing the rules. We\’re the bureaucrats and you\’ll dance to our tune, even when we won\’t tell you what the beat is or what key it is in.\”

Nothing like having the rule of law, is there? And this is nothing like having the rule of law.

13 thoughts on “Private schools and the Charities Commission”

  1. Well it is far from clear to me why an organisation which exists specifically to cement class advantage and monopolise opportunity should have any charitable status at all so we shall not shed to many tears for all the poor little Etonians . Have you not observed how conspicuously they are suffering as social mobility halts and they occupy the Nation like so many gaping beaked cuckoos ? Quite .

    It is not good argument for a low tax and free society that access to high earnings is fixed in childhood as it increasingly is . One response is to bring back Grammar schools and in all but name that’s where we are going and this will accelerate when the Conservatives take power. Academies wholeheartedly independent ( not under Labour’s boot ) , free schools and rigorous streaming are all getting on the way but bursaries from Private schools is an excellent part of the scene handled correctly and not punitively I would like to see the return of direct grants to complement the school places as ion the old days .

    You may be right that there is some bureaucratic muddle here but your knee jerk defence of the privileged is simply inviting the red hoard to sweep down from their mountain homes and rain devastation on the land .

    Irresponsible Worstall , take 200 lines

    “ I must not defend privilege under the guise of Libertarianism
    “ I must not defend privilege under the guise of Libertarianism
    “ I must not defend privilege under the guise of Libertarianism

    Etc. (200 times )

  2. I can’t for the life of me ever comprehend why school businesses are charities. But then I can’t figure out why most of the things we call charities are called charities.

    These schools, best of luck to them, are businesses selling a service. Frankly, if they want a benefit from the government (tax freeness) they’re asking for all they get. They’re not doing anything charitable. They’re in business for crying out loud. Why the feck don’t they tell the government to piss off, and pay taxes like every other business has to?

    I daresay that somebody will say their customers are having to pay for education twice or something like that, but it’s a silly argument. We’re all paying through the nose for everything the government does. Single people are forced to pay for the schooling of other peoples’ children. It’s just what living under a statist system is like.

    Really, come on. These are businesses selling a luxury product to the luxury market. Charities? My arse.

  3. If fees have to rise anyway why not bite the bullet and incorporate, charge VAT and be out from under the Government’s jackboot?

    Tim adds: Note the “you have to liquidate” part.

  4. It’s not a wonderful demolition, for precisely the reason Ian gives – table makers don’t get tax benefits on the basis that table making is useful (despite the fact that it obviously is), whereas private schools do.

    If table makers wanted to get tax breaks compared to chair makers, then they’d also need to jump through ridiculous hoops to justify them…

  5. I am sure it’s possible to liquidate and incorporate – they should talk to the GMG’s lawyers about how to do that offshore.

  6. JB – If we had to pay for tables through taxes, (enough that everyone is entitled to one government standard table), but some people don’t take up the government option but pay, on top of their tax contribution, to buy a table elsewhere, then a private table selling company would be satisfying a public good and have a reasonable argument for charitable status. The only thing the charity commission should be ensuring is that the company is selling tables.

    An alternative plan would be to remove charitable status from all schools but to give a tax rebate to the equivalent cost, (NB not value), of a state education, (or a voucher if you prefer).

    Newmania: “Well it is far from clear to me why an organisation which exists specifically to cement class advantage and monopolise opportunity should have any charitable status at all”

    Missing the point with spectacular abandon there. These organisations exist specifically to provide education. Your objection is like complaining that a charity to help children from sink estates exists exclusively to help irritating lefty tossers spout bollocks in the media.

  7. “monopolise opportunity”

    An amazing phrase.

    In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man would have it poked out for monopolising vision.

  8. Kay Tie’s comment in the Times piece (“pay for all children to go to private schools and to shut down the LEA etc”) is pretty much what happened in New Zealand; in that case, however, the schools were still state-owned, but run by a board elected by parents of its pupils. 4,500 schools changed to this system on the same day.

    Details here.

  9. Ian, thanks for the link. I really wish something like that would happen over here.

    In fact, the charitable aspect of private education is primarily paid out by the parents who pay the fees. Because they have paid twice over for the education of each child. The state benefits from their non-takeup of a school place, and reimburses nothing.

    The state sector has ample information on how many school-age children there are in any area. And it is true that some of those children will not take up their places. Yet we still manage to have thousands of kids travelling many miles each day because there is no local school place for them at all.

    No no bloody marks to the state sector yet again.

  10. I had the immense good fortune to be one of the first Assisted Places children in the UK. Changed my life. God bless you Lady Thatcher (even though I’m an atheist)

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