Scots want to strip private schools of charity status

Scots want to strip private schools of charity status
Third Force News

Private schools should be banned or lose their charitable status according to over half of Scots.

YouGov research carried out for the Times newspaper has found 44% of Scots believe that private schools should not be charities, while a further 7% believe they should be banned altogether.

Less than 10% of respondents said that Scotland’s 52 fee paying schools, some of which charge more than £30,000 a year per pupil, should retain their charitable status without condition.

All of Scotland’s independent schools currently benefit from charitable status which provides tax benefits such an 80% reduction in non-domestic rates and Gift Aid on donations.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has carried out a review of the status of each of Scotland’s schools within the last 10 years.

Around a fifth initially failed the assessment because their high-level of fees was thought to unduly restrict access to their services. However, after responding with activities such as increasing the levels of bursaries offered to poorer students, they all finally passed.

However, just under a third of people interviewed by YouGov said that the schools should provide more public good, such as supporting local state schools, in order to benefit from the status.

Ross Greer, Scottish Green Party education spokesman, said: “Private schools maintain and entrench inequality, creating networks of privileged young people, they must scrap the charitable status of fee-paying schools, which are plainly not charities, as most people agree.

“The taxes they should be paying would go a long way to helping young people from deprived backgrounds.”

However, supporters of private schools claim they save the state money by taking young people out of the state system and also already provide a range of public benefit, such as sharing facilities such as sports grounds with their local communities.

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS), said: “The schools have education as their charitable purpose, deliver on that, and make very substantial efforts to demonstrate public benefit.

“Widening access programme schools undertake with means-tested fee assistance – all of which is funded by current taxpaying parents – is far greater in proportion to anything currently in place in other sectors.

“Losing that would be put greater pressure on school places in local authorities, and forgo the attainment that dedicated teachers and pupils – of mixed abilities and backgrounds – achieve.”

Around 4% of Scottish pupils are educated in the private sector, which SCIS research suggests saves the state sector £30m a year. 

YouGov polled 1,134 Scots between 24 and 29 November 2016.

Source: Third Force News