This website uses cookies for anonymised analytics and for account authentication. See our privacy and cookies policies for more information.

The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

May announces review of public school charity rules

This news post is over 7 years old

Independent schools have been asked to do more to keep their charitable status

Private schools in England and Wales must do more to support children from less-privileged backgrounds or risk losing their charitable status, according to Theresa May.

The prime minister unveiled a raft of changes she said independent schools must make as part of her vision for a “truly meritocratic Britain”.

Chief among these is a requirement that larger private schools set up or sponsor state-run sister schools if they want to retain their status as charities.

Smaller schools will be required to send teachers to take lessons in state schools, Ms May said.

The PM also warned there will be a “tougher” test to determine how much public benefit is provided by individual schools.

Through their charitable status, private schools collectively reduce their tax bills by millions every year

Ms May said: “Most of the major public schools started out as the route by which poor boys could reach the professions. The nature of their intake may have changed today – indeed these schools have become more and more divorced from normal life.

“Between 2010 and 2015 their fees rose four times faster than average earnings growth, while the percentage of their pupils who come from overseas has gone up by 33% since 2008.

“But I know that their commitment to giving something back to the wider community remains. These are great schools with a lot to offer and I certainly don’t believe you solve the divide between the rich and the rest by abolishing or demolishing them.

“You do it by extending their reach and asking them to do more as a condition of their privileged position to help all children.”

The PM said a consultation to examine Charity Commission guidance on the public benefit of independent schools will now take place.

She said: "Through their charitable status, private schools collectively reduce their tax bills by millions every year, and I want to consult on how we can amend Charity Commission guidance for independent schools to enact a tougher test on the amount of public benefit required to maintain charitable status."

A spokesman for the Independent Schools Council said the majority of private schools were already involved in partnerships with other educational establishments in their communities.

He added: “Like all charities, schools with charitable status are held to account by the Charity Commission and they must show how they fulfil their charitable obligations through public benefit in the context of their own particular circumstances.

“The Prime Minister said she was unapologetic in her belief in social mobility. We share the same sentiment. And in the drive towards greater and meaningful social mobility in the UK, we believe that independent schools are part of the solution, not the problem.”