Charitable status for schools is not a ‘swindle’
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