Tax benefits to private schools are “inappropriate” and “unjust” claims campaigner
A high powered group will be convened to examine stripping private schools of charitable status.
Charity regulators and council leaders will be invited before the Scottish Parliament's public petitions committee (PPC) following a petition by campaigner Ashley Husband Powton.
Husband Powton told the PPC, at a meeting on Tuesday, that only a “negligible” amount of bursaries are available for non-fee paying pupils. The schools, she added, offer very limited public benefit and access to them is unduly restrictive
St Andrews graduate Husband Powton, who was educated at a state school, described the current system, which allows private schools to receive an 80% discount on their non-domestic rates because of the status, as “inappropriate” and “unjust”.
She said: “This charitable status means that all tax payers including the poorest among them are subsidising the rich and the privileged to privately educate their children.
Charitable status and tax payer subsidy for private school is at its most basic morally wrong and entirely at odds with the true meaning and sentiment of charity
“It corrupts and derides the true spirit of charity, that is helping the needy and the most vulnerable in society.
“Charitable status and tax payer subsidy for private school is at its most basic morally wrong and entirely at odds with the true meaning and sentiment of charity.”
But with Husband Powton telling the PPC the average cost to the Scottish Government to educate a pupil in the state sector was £5468, Jackson Carlaw, MSP for the West of Scotland, questioned whether she understood what the full consequences of removing charitable status from private schools, many of which also offer out of hours community use facilities, would be.
Carlaw, himself educated at independent school Glasgow Academy, said: “If the 33,000 students who are currently in the independent sector required to go to the state sector the state sector would have to find the 33,000 times the £5000 plus that you suggested the individual education of a student costs.
“Is it not therefore the case that by not sending 33,000 to the state sector you could argue that in fact those people that have their children educated independently are subsidising the state sector by not placing that additional burden on them, and where would the Scottish Government find the money for the 33,000 students if these independent schools were not there.”
David Stewart MSP, convener of the PPC, praised Husband Powton for giving a “very articulate” view of her thoughts and said he felt it would be useful for members to hear from other groups on the subject.
The PCC’s next steps will include approaching the Scottish Government on their views, as well as inviting The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Educational Institute of Scotland to give evidence on the practical impact of revoking private schools’ charitable status.
Stewart added: “The public petitions committee takes very seriously the issues raised by this petition.
“It is of particular interest to the committee that private schools can amend their application to ensure they continue to receive chartable status. We will be looking further into this issue while establishing the benefits private schools currently offer their local communities.”