24th July 2009 at 01:00

Taxing decisions

Amid the fuss over independent schools losing charitable status and having to pay the taxman, the fate of many other educational charities, often styling themselves "colleges", risks being overlooked.

They are a mixed bag, ranging from the College of Estate Management, awarded a royal charter in 1922 and offering courses in property, to the College of Psychic Studies, which boasts Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a past president and asks up to Pounds 180 for training in "psychic development".

The Charity Commission says it will look at each case on its merits to determine whether the organisation has a public benefit and whether its services are accessible to those without an income from ancestral estates to pay the fees.

FErret can only imagine the howls of outrage from retired colonels in Tunbridge Wells if their fondly remembered prep school were to lose its charitable status, while "the beacon of light for those seeking to explore a consciousness beyond matter" gets to keep the tax breaks.

Good luck, commissioners.

Out with a bang

These have been quiet times for FErret's department for credit where credit is due. But it's time to wake up the team, dust off the cobwebs and set them to work.

Recipients of the honour are the MPs on the innovation, universities, science and skills committee, whose devastating analysis of the incompetence that led to the collapse of the college building programme is likely to be their swansong in FE.

The former business and regulation committee will take over from them, following the proposal that a smaller committee will have no trouble coping with double the work.

As a memento, FErret leaves you with committee member Gordon Marsden's epitaph for the Learning and Skills Council: "There was an element among LSC officials of being demob happy. `We are going out. We want to go out with a bang!' Well, they did, just not the one they expected."

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