Private schools charity status ‘should be removed’

Private school kids

A survey of a thousand Scots found nearly three quarters believe independent schools are not worthy of their charitable status

22nd January 2018 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

The majority of Scots believe that private schools should be stripped of their charity status.

A YouGov survey of 1,002 adults found that 73% of people think that fee-paying schools should lose their charitable status.

The Scottish Government announced earlier this winter that schools would have to pay full business rates, but has said there are no plans to review the status of independent schools.

Only 13% of respondents said they want the situation to remain as it is now - with about 60% of Conservative voters believe charity status should end, despite opposition from Ruth Davidson’s party.

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said that negative press coverage had affected the survey and called for work to be done to repair the image of schools.

He said: “The poll results will make depressing reading for the schools that have worked so hard for over 10 years to pass a test of their public benefit and widen access, something no other group of charities has done.  There is clearly much more work for the sector, and the charity regulator, to do in showing how much is being done – at the direct behest of the Parliament.

“The results are perhaps less surprising given the nature of the recent public debate, with coverage of schools’ work using phrases like swindle, separating precious offspring from the masses, obscene and insidious. 

“It is a disgrace that the best intentions and choices of one group of teachers, families, pupils and schools can be portrayed in such a sweeping, false and dismissive way.  No other group would be expected to tolerate it.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government does not have any plans to amend the charity test to remove the charitable status of independent schools.”

John Downie, director of public affairs for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said: “SCVO has long held the belief that arms length organisations and independent schools are not genuine third sector organisations, and as such welcomed the Scottish Government’s recent decision to stop charitable tax rates for private schools. That the majority of people surveyed feel the same way is hardly surprising.

"It is difficult to argue that access to private schools has been widened when their very existence serves the select few who can pay the sizeable price tag that comes with them, which the vast majority of people in Scotland are unable to pay. Charitable tax rates – and status – should surely be reserved for more deserving organisations who serve the many, with no distinctions or barriers based on income.”