On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off

16th March 2012 at 00:00

This week: the Charity Commission

Far be it from TES to pass judgement on the charitable value of the nation's public schools. But it really drives us round the bend when schools of any flavour have their time wasted by quangocrats who make interventions that come to nought.

This week's occupant of the naughty step is the Charity Commission, for squandering vast amounts of cash and labour in an attempt to make independents prove their charitable status, only for the process to amount to nothing. The quango, having lost a judicial review at the end of last year, has now accepted that it will be up to the trustees of independent schools to decide whether they are meeting the "public good", not a centralised army of bureaucrats. In other words, the status quo before this whole process began in 2006.

The tricky question of whether Eton, Harrow and your local public school deserve the tax benefits that come with charitable status is for better brains than the author of this column, but it is absurd that this process has been going on for more than six years and has still wound up where it started.

Perhaps the process has focused a few minds in the independent sector on what they are doing for the wider community, but this could have been achieved much more efficiently. In fact, thousands of publicly minded heads, governors and bursars have had sleepless nights over the fact that bankruptcy for their school could have been ahead unless they found extra cash to be spent on meeting some hazy guidance on what it meant to be a "public good".

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