The Tory loyalists have got themselves into a lather at Conservative Home. The charity commission have had the downright cheek to threaten removing the charitable status of two public schools; St Anselm’s in Bakewell and Highfield Priory in Preston. The Preston school does not provide any bursaries; its only claim to charitable status according to the Independentbeing that “it kept its fees as low as it could”. Don’t Asda and Tesco make the same claim? Perhaps they should be given charitable status. St Anselm’s used 1% of its fees to provide a paltry two bursaries to two pupils, who I’m sure were heavily vetted.
The two schools have been given a year to sort themselves out. But even this generosity has upset the Tories. They consider the exclusivity afforded to public schools is a charitable aim in itself.
We live in a country that provides universal free education. I have therefore long held the view that private schooling in our country cannot be considered a charitable act and that therefore it should never be given the same status as legitimate charities such as Oxfam and Cancer Relief. My party has been far too timid in its approach. It pains me that these two schools will be able to negotiate the minimum changes to their provision to allow them to continue to receive a subsidy from all of us. The charitable status should have been removed from our elitist public schools long ago. But it’s clear that the Tories want to remove any expectation of bursaries or similar and consider the charitable status is their birthright.
First published 14 July 2009