Private schools want legal ruling on charity status

Eton College Independent schools now have to justify their charitable status

Related Stories

The Independent Schools Council says it wants a legal ruling to clarify the guidelines on charitable status for private schools in England.

Such a legal ruling could come a step closer if the independent schools group is successful in its bid for a judicial review of Charity Commission guidance.

The ISC says it is expecting to hear shortly if there will be such a review.

In particular it wants to clarify what is meant by charity rules which expect schools to provide "public benefit".

Chief executive David Lyscom said the independent schools body "had no alternative but to challenge the commission in the courts".

'Public benefit'

Independent schools are required to show that they are offering a "public benefit", as a condition of charitable status.

There is no longer any automatic right to charitable status - with the Charity Commission requiring private schools to demonstrate that they qualify.

But there have been concerns among independent schools about a lack of certainty about what public benefit means.

Many fee-paying independent schools offer scholarships or subsidised places or share their facilities with local state schools.

But out of five test cases last year, the Charity Commission said that two schools did not offer sufficient public benefit to qualify for charitable status.

"The entire sector is at the whim of the commission's prevailing and subjective view as to what is 'sufficient' for a school to get the all-clear," said Mr Lyscom.

He takes issue with what he says is an over-narrow emphasis on means-tested bursaries offered by fee-charging schools.

Mr Lyscom says that schools' educational work is a public benefit - and that independent schools have sought to make facilities available to the wider community.

"Given the widespread controversy caused by the commission's approach, it is important that it should be tested at law," says Mr Lyscom.

Charitable status gives tax breaks to independent schools, but Mr Lyscom said it was not about money, but about protecting their not-for-profit educational ethos.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Education & Family stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Cerro RicoSatanic mines

    Devil worship in the tunnels of the man-eating mountain


  • Nefertiti MenoeWar of words

    The woman who sparked a row over 'speaking white'


  • Oil pumpPump change

    What would ending the US oil export ban do to petrol prices?


  • Brazilian Scene, Ceara, in 1893Sir Snapshot

    19th Century Brazil seen through the eyes of an Englishman


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • SailingGame on

    BBC Capital discovers why certain sports seem to have a special appeal for those with deep pockets

Programmes

  • European Union's anti-terrorism chief Gilles de KerchoveHARDtalk Watch

    Anti-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove on the threat from returning Islamic State fighters

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.