Sour charity for private schools

7th January 2005 at 00:00
The new Charities Bill has been welcomed by the Independent Schools Council, it seems because the crucial definition of "public benefit" has been assigned to the Charity Commission. This body has a tradition of casting "a benign eye" over private schools, according to The Times.

I hope they are wrong. There must be rigorous but fair examination of every private school's bid for charitable status. Otherwise there will be no end to the nonsense of regarding schools such as Eton and Harrow as charitable, while they cater only for some of the most privileged children in our society.

Instead of taking their fair share in educating all the nation's children, they will continue to be given nearly pound;100 million a year of public money for an exclusive minority, while they cherry-pick children and their parents from local authority schools, reinforcing division and inequality in our society.

A few token gestures towards public benefit, largely peripheral to what the mainstream schools do, are no justification for charitable status. These crumbs from the rich man's table are minimal in the context of the money spent on the schools themselves.

Usually on a par with the donations businesses make to earn goodwill in their community, they deserve equally favourable treatment, no more.

I call upon the Charity Commission to face up to the great responsibility it has been given and end one of this country's major hypocrisies, ensuring that only those private schools which do provide a genuine public service are given full charitable status.

DTP Mitchell. 51 Falcon Avenue. Bedford

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