OSCR satisfied two Brethren-run schools should pass charity test
A further two private schools have had their charitable status confirmed as part of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator’s ongoing review of independent schools.
Focus School Aberdeenshire, run by Springvale Education Trust, and the Falkirk-based Focus School Laurieston, run by the Oakwood Education Trust, are both affiliated to the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC).
Both schools were investigated closely by the regulator because of the practice operated by the PBCC known as “shrinking” – or excommunication.
This is where dissenting members of its community are sent to live alone with only food and reading material.
However in its report OSCR said: "The charity trustees have advised us that shrinking or excommunication are methods used by the brethren community in general only as last resorts and are not applied to children under the age of 17.”
Importantly the regulator said it was satisfied efforts were being made for non-Brethren children to attend the schools – despite never receiving an application from non-Brethren.
"The charity trustees have advised that being a child of the Brethren is not a requirement to attend the school, the important factor being rather the adherence to the ethos and guiding principles of the school," OSCR said.
The issue of fees was also addressed. The two schools ask for non-compulsory contributions rather than mandatory fees, and these are lower than for many private schools, the report says.
This further persuaded OSCR that the schools should have charitable status.
Martin Tyson, OSCR's head of registration, said: "As with all of the schools we have reviewed, there was an issue of possible undue restriction on gaining access to the benefit provided. We were also aware of issues that related specifically to these two charities."
OSCR’s review of independent schools started in September 2012 and is now complete except for Struthers Memorial Church and Fernhill School in Glasgow.