Petition to Scottish Parliament says tax breaks gained by private schools having charity status are unfair on financially-strapped state schools
Private schools claiming tax breaks due to their charitable status have come under a renewed attack.
A petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for all privately funded schools to have their charitable status stripped has gained over 200 signatures since being launched by campaigner Ashley Husband Powton.
Powton claimed private schools are given an unfair financial advantage compared to state-run schools due to being able to pay reduced non-domestic rates because of their charitable status.
Figures from 2011 show Fettes College, whose alumni includes former prime minister Tony Blair; Gordonstoun where the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles were schooled and Edinburgh’s George Watson’s College saved a combined total of £614,898 in tax liability.
Recent Higher pass results showed the educational attainment gap between public and state schools is increasing, with 91.4% of private pupils passing their exams compared to the average of 77.1%.
This inequity must be rectified by removing charitable status, and thus taxpayer subsidy, from private, fee-paying schools
“This charitable status allows Scotland’s elitist and privileged private schools, which serve only 4% of pupils, 80% mandatory discount on non-domestic rates, whilst financially-strapped state schools, which serve 96% of pupils, pay the full sum,” Powton said.
“This inequity must be rectified by removing charitable status, and thus taxpayer subsidy, from private, fee-paying schools.”
Each of the schools named in the petition were asked to provide a comment.
George Watson’s College principal Melvyn Roffe told TFN provision of education is a charitable activity in itself and added his school saved the public purse by providing school places and offering £1.5m of bursaries per year.
“We educate 2300 pupils,” he said. “If the City of Edinburgh was having to educate those pupils it would be a considerably larger drain on the public resource than the rates remission for charitable schools and colleges. In the end we are saving the public purse and not costing it.”
Roffe added he had hoped passing the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) test would have seen the end to the argument.
“There is an element of going over old ground and moving the goalposts. We have all got jobs to do and it would be far better if we just let that one go.”
John Edward, director of Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), said the OSCR test, schools have to pass is the toughest in the world.
“Independent schools are charities because they provide charitable purposes for the public benefit.
“They enjoy no treatment which is different or special when compared to other charities.
“Whether state-funded schools should similarly receive charitable status, as Jim Sillars recently suggested, is for others to debate.
“It is worth noting that a recent independent report by BiGGAR Economics revealed that members of SCIS deliver a positive economic impact to the Scottish economy of £445.8 million gross value added per year and around 11,200 jobs in operational benefits alone.”