Independent but still charitable

It may surprise your correspondent Tony Mitchell (TES, January 7) that the Independent Schools Council welcomes a "rigorous but fair examination of every private school's charitable status".

The public benefit provided by charitable independent schools is immense and easily demonstrable. In educating nearly half a million children at no expense to the state, they allow some pound;2 billion of public money to be spent on state education and other public services. And so far from being "given" nearly pound;100 million, ISC charitable schools pay back more than pound;200m in VAT on goods and services, a tax which maintained schools can reclaim. They also give away pound;300m in help with fees, grants, and other charitable expenditure.

Dr Mitchell is rightly concerned about schools' core activities. Quite apart from the widespread sharing of facilities with maintained schools, and the increasing range of partnership activities, independent schools make a vital contribution to the future intellectual capital of the nation.

Nearly half of the candidates achieving top grades in A-level maths, sciences and modern languages come from independent schools. If the nation is to have an adequate supply of maths, science and language teachers in the future, many of them will come from today's independent schools, or will be helped by tuition or teaching materials shared by our schools with the maintained sector.

Jonathan Shephard General secretary Independent Schools Council Grosvenor Gardens House 35-37 Grosvenor Gardens London SW1

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