Where is the benefit in charity?

20th May 2005 at 01:00
The private sector is obviously terrifed at the impending loss of the subsidy it receives by virtue of its charitable status (TESS, April 22).

The justifications given for charitable status were ludicrous.

We were told about "a highly developed voluntary service programme for senior pupils, "a local school (as) half our children come from within three miles", "raising money for local concerns and charities" and "school premises used by outside bodies, such as the Girl Guides and the Scottish Association of Teachers of History".

Is the private sector seriously suggesting that such characteristics are unique to it rather than practically universal among Scottish schools?

The first question which should be asked is a simple one: do the private schools fulfil the criteria for charitable status which would be understood by the bulk of citizens when approached by a collector with a can?

Would Joe Citizen slip a fiver into the collecting can of someone knocking on his or her door for a donation to one of the private schools seeking to maintain charitable status?

Somehow I don't feel that the man or woman who happily gives to cancer research or the RSPCC or Oxfam would see private schools on a par with such charities.

All of this, however, dodges the fundamental issue of the purpose of private schooling. It is the deliberate maintenance of a system of social exclusion. I live in a Scottish town whose local academy is one of the highest attaining state schools in Scotland.

Despite that, a substantial number of residents send their children to Edinburgh's private schools. Their academic attainment at these schools will be no better than they would have achieved locally.

The ethos of high expectations, in both academic and social terms, will be as demanding in the comprehensives as in the private schools. The difference is in the social cachet of those attending the schools and in the social and career network which the private schools' FP system guarantees.

Far from providing a public benefit, it can be argued that the private sector does the very opposite. Whatever the private schools are, charities they certainly should not be.

Alex Wood Acredales, Linlithgow

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