Falling foul of public benefit test

24th July 2009 at 01:00

The TES is right to challenge the emphasis placed by the Charity Commission on bursaries to satisfy the new public benefit requirement ("Limited notion of charity benefits few", July 17).

[Commission chair] Dame Suzi Leather seeks to reassure charities that the commission wants to help them if they fail the public benefit test, not to close them down. This is as reassuring as a huntsman telling a fox that he is concerned for its welfare.

The Charity Commission's opacity has destroyed confidence in its judgment and the vetting process. The fears of small independent schools, that community partnership arrangements will count for less than bursaries, appear to have been vindicated.

Bursaries are not the way forward because they benefit just a few individuals. Skimming the brightest pupils from state schools will almost certainly damage them by removing role models from their peer groups. At the same time, the pupils who remain are effectively being told that their school is not good enough to educate the best.

As fees rise to pay for more bursaries, apart from the assisted few, the best private schools will become even more exclusive and the preserve of the very wealthy few. Better surely for private schools to be encouraged to work closely with state schools in mutually beneficial partnerships.

Patrick Watson, London.

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