Char­i­ta­ble sta­tus for schools is not a ‘swin­dle’

Sunday Herald - - EDITORIAL & LETTERS -

Topic of the week: the ethics of pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion THE dic­tionary def­i­ni­tion of a “swin­dle” is a “fraud­u­lent scheme or trans­ac­tion” (The great pri­vate school swin­dle, News, Oc­to­ber 15). The fam­i­lies and teach­ers of more than 5,000 pupils in Glas­gow, and 25,000 else­where in Scot­land, ac­cept that not every­one will sup­port their choice of an in­de­pen­dent ed­u­ca­tion. In the de­bate on ed­u­ca­tion, how­ever, it is a new low to ef­fec­tively la­bel those com­mu­ni­ties as com­plicit in fraud. In­de­pen­dent schools are the most tested and scru­ti­nised of the 24,000 reg­is­tered char­i­ties in Scot­land. A pub­lic ben­e­fit test was de­signed specif­i­cally for them in Holy­rood, and they have spent 12 years meet­ing that test – pro­vid­ing over £30 mil­lion in means-tested fee as­sis­tance to new pupils. That sta­tus has since been tested again through a pub­lic pe­ti­tion to Par­lia­ment and other rep­re­sen­ta­tions.

Those schools re­ceive not a penny from the Ex­che­quer, pro­vid­ing al­most £250m in Ex­che­quer re­ceipts; sup­port­ing more than 10,500 jobs; and pro­mot­ing Scot­tish ed­u­ca­tion world­wide. School staff helped de­sign the new cur­ricu­lum and Na­tional Qual­i­fi­ca­tions, work as as­ses­sors for school in­spec­tions, share staff and teach­ing re­sources with 100s of lo­cal author­ity schools, and open fa­cil­i­ties for free or at non-com­mer­cial rates across Glas­gow and be­yond.

If the Sun­day Her­ald seeks the re­moval of char­i­ta­ble sta­tus al­to­gether, on the ba­sis of state fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tion, per­haps it could ex­plain what the greater cost to the tax­payer would be of pupils seek­ing new places in the state sec­tor? John Ed­ward, Di­rec­tor Scot­tish Coun­cil of In­de­pen­dent Schools YOUR re­port is to be wel­comed, es­pe­cially at a time when the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s top pri­or­ity is ed­u­ca­tion. Prob­lems of teach­ers leav­ing the pro­fes­sion, oth­ers no longer in­ter­ested in tak­ing on the role of head­teach­ers, prob­lems of at­tract­ing young peo­ple to train as teach­ers and schools strug­gling to cope with in­creas­ing num­bers of chil­dren with spe­cial needs, all need mil­lions more to be found each year. The un­be­liev­able hand­out of pub­lic money to pri­vate schools through rates re­lief of £7.4 mil­lion, and £5.7m in char­i­ta­ble tax breaks, and pay­ing no VAT, is scan­dalous. All be­cause they claim to be char­i­ties.

Yes they were orig­i­nally set up with good char­i­ta­ble purposes, to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion to the un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren of crafts peo­ple. To­day such schools are noth­ing but op­por­tu­ni­ties for the rich to buy into the elite net­works of the pro­fes­sions, busi­ness, the me­dia, civil ser­vice and, of course, po­lit­i­cal power. Is our Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, with their pri­or­ity of pro­vid­ing the best ed­u­ca­tion pos­si­ble for all, likely to take any ac­tion on this? Or are the politi­cians in our Par­lia­ment who are the prod­ucts of th­ese pri­vate schools more likely to vote to keep that elit­ist group in the man­ner they are used to? Max Cruick­shank Hamil­ton

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