private schools

Private schools in the UK will no longer have to provide free or subsidised places for disadvantaged pupils thanks to new government legislation.

Under previous guidelines, private schools were compelled to provide subsidies to those children who had achieved the best grades and were accepted by the school, but unable to afford the fees.

However, despite the fact that they will no longer have to do so, it emerged that such schools would still be given complete freedom to justify their charitable status – allowing them to remain in business and hang on to millions of pounds worth of tax breaks.

As long as private schools allowed children from state schools to share their playing fields occasionally or send one of their teachers to to work in a state school for a while, private institutions would be able to retain their charity status.

Matthew Burgess, general secretary of the Independent Schools Council, said the guidelines “don’t try to be prescriptive in the way that the former guidance was”, adding: “It doesn’t get itself into areas that are ideologically charged”.

Under the 2006 Charities Act, fee-paying schools would no longer be automatically entitled to charitable status and must prove they provide wider “public benefit”.
The Commission subsequently produced detailed guidance outlining how around 1,000 independent schools in England and Wales could pass the test.

That has all now been revoked and the guidelines for what a private school would have to do to accommodate poorer pupils has now become more ambiguous and subject to the school’s choosing.

The proposals have been slammed by critics who described these new guidelines as a tax-avoidance initiative that reduces the responsibility of private schools to justify their charitable status, driving further gaps between the rich and the poor.

In the US however, it is a slightly different picture. In Harvard for example, they have scrapped fees and are known for offering generous loan agreements to those who household income is less than $60,000.

It remains to be seen whether the ‘elite’ educational establishments in the UK will follow suit.

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