Private schools anger after losing charity rate relief

Loreto-school

Scotland's independent schools now liable to pay same rates as commercial enterprises 

15th December 2017 by Robert Armour 3 Comments

Scotland’s private schools are facing a £5m budget bombshell after it was announced they are to lose charitable rate relief.

Finance minister Derek McKay announced the change during his budget speech yesterday on the back of the Barclay Review into business rates.

Earlier in the year it concluded private schools should no longer benefit from reduced charges as charities.

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, slammed the move saying since Scots charity law was created in 2006, £200 million has been given in means-tested fee assistance to Scottish pupils.

He said: “For mainstream schools the announcement today is, pure and simple, a backwards step by the Scottish Government – taken against advice and evidence from many quarters. 

"We will consider the proposed new arrangements, and the possible exemption of special needs and specialist schools, when they are detailed. 

“If followed through, this proposal will weaken and narrow the widening access programme and, most importantly, it will impact on those accessing bursary assistance made possible by the reduced rates level." 

More than 650 pupils receive 100% means-tested fee assistance for both day and boarding, while thousands more receive assistance covering 20 to 80% of fees. 

Edward added: “It is dispiriting to learn that the government considers that independent schools and their parents alone are deserving of a targeted fivefold rates rise."

And he hit out: “Those who have used business rates as a proxy for their own opposition to the independent sector should take no satisfaction from this decision however. 

“There is not the slightest chance it will diminish the dedication, energy and expertise that independent schools and their staff have shown over decades, and centuries; there will be no stepping-back from offering choice, diversity and excellence for schools, for families and for Scotland's young people."

John Downie, director of public affairs for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said: “SCVO has long held the belief that independent schools are not genuine third sector organisations, and as such welcome the Scottish Government’s decision to stop charitable tax rates for private schools.

"The issue now is how the government proposes to carry out this change, and I believe now is the time for the 2005 Charities Act to be reviewed.”

But the Scottish Conservatives claimed it was a “blatant attack” on the private school sector, which had not been thought through.

Liz Smith, the education spokesman, added: “For a party that is supposedly in favour of widening access this move will make independent schools more elitist and less accessible to those from poorer backgrounds."

"That will be met with dismay by those parents whose sons and daughters have been in receipt of increasingly generous bursary support.”

Relief will be retained for special schools serving pupils with additional support needs.

15th December 2017 by Ruchir Shah

I'm surprised by the attempt here to link rates relief to bursary provision so overtly. I.e. "it will impact on those accessing bursary assistance made possible by the reduced rates level"Remember charity status itself was justified to OSCR by many independent private schools based on their bursaries provision.

15th December 2017 by Graham McCulloch

Fergus must be livid !

19th December 2017 by Claire

Time to stop donating to any charity if they are so venemous towards the schools. Every child in a fee paying school has passed on its right to government paid education leaving that money for those still in the state sector. Charities might live to regret the backlash this will create.