Independents pass the 'charitable' test

Four schools rise to the challenge of wider public benefit

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Four Scottish independent schools, which were warned three years ago that they risked losing charitable status over their failure to provide a public benefit, have now passed the tests set by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Hutchesons' Grammar in Glasgow, Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh, Lomond School in Helensburgh and St Leonards in St Andrews were all told last week by OSCR that they had passed.

OSCR's chair, the Very Reverend Dr Graham Forbes, said the outcome demonstrated the positive impact of charity regulation.

"The schools have enhanced financial support for lower-income families and made their facilities more widely available - in one example, from fewer than 3 per cent of pupils receiving financial support to nearly 10 per cent.

"As well as increasing the amount available to help with the cost of fees, measures now in place include partnerships with state schools for teaching and the use of resources, and allowing pupils from local state schools free access to sports facilities," he said.

Twelve independents have now been reviewed by OSCR and passed the test.

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said SCIS would seek further detailed guidance about OSCR's expectations of independent schools in demonstrating their commitment to public benefit. The regulator was due to publish updated guidance next year.

The Independent Schools Council in England won a legal ruling this year that the Charity Commission had been too prescriptive in the way it assessed whether fee-paying schools fulfilled their duty to provide "public benefit". SCIS was keen to find out whether that English case would have any bearing on OSCR's position, Mr Edward added.

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