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Jobs fear over charity axe

PERTH and Kinross has come out strongly in favour of retaining the charitable status of independent schools. The council is run by a coalition which includes Labour councillors as well as Tories, Independents and Liberal Democrats.

The council has made representations to the Scottish Charity Law Review Commission, which is reviewing the position of charities that attract tax exemptions. The Scottish Executive-backed consultation runs until the end of September.

There have been inevitable calls for independent schools to lose this right on the grounds that they are not a charity but a means of allowing parents to purchase a commodity. The Socialist Education Association has made representations to the commission along those lines.

But Perth and Kinross opposes any such move, alarmed by economic implications rather than educational ones. The council, schools and other agencies have come together to form the Perth and Kinross Independent Education Partnership, chaired by Sandy Bushby, a Tory councillor.

The 13 independent schools in the area are said to spend at least pound;10 million a year with local businesses and provide extensive facilities from IT to sport and leisure.

A survey shows they also account for 730 jobs, of which 83 per cent are full-time. The two independent schools in Crieff, Morrison's Academy and Ardvreck, provide 12 per cent of jobs in the Crieff area.

Mr Bushby has told the commission that the schools "are a major economic and social component within Perth and Kinross and within rural areas they are the major economic drivers and source of employment".

Widespread concern had been created a few months ago when it appeared that Rannoch School, the largest employer in its area, would have to close because of mounting costs. But a last-minute rescue campaign preserved its future.

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