Lord Moynihan urges private schools to open sports facilities to state pupils
PRIVATE schools should be made to share their sports facilities with state primaries in return for the tax breaks they enjoy through their charitable status, according to the outgoing chairman of the British Olympic Association.
During the Games, Lord Moynihan complained that Team GB was dominated by privately educated athletes, describing the situation as “wholly unacceptable”. His latest intervention comes as Scotland’s charity regulator prepares to investigate the public benefit of Scotland’s private schools.
The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has previously investigated a number of independent schools, requiring them to widen access in return for maintaining their status as charities.
Lord Moynihan said both state and private secondary schools should be required to open their sports facilities to local primaries to help foster sporting achievement from a young age.
He added: “State secondary schools with good sports facilities, as well as all independent schools, should be required to share their facilities and co-operate with the primary schools in their catchment areas. For the independent schools, this could be part of the public benefit requirement under the Charities Act.”
While Scottish private schools have different conditions placed on them by the country’s own charity regulator, they have recently been put under increased scrutiny over whether they are delivering a public benefit. But John Edward, a spokesman for the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), said sharing sports facilities was already common practice in Scotland.
“It’s already done quite a lot,” he said. “The conditions of the charity regulations are different north of the Border. Any charity, including schools, is required to demonstrate their public benefit. We’re confident everybody understands what public benefit is. A lot of our schools were founded as charities to begin with, so they take that very seriously.”
A new £6 million sports complex at Sir Chris Hoy’s old school, George Watson’s College in Edinburgh, will be open to pupils when term starts this week. However, while the facilities are available to those from outside the school, anyone using them must pay to do so.
Last month, OSCR announced it would investigate up to 50 private schools, some of which charge up to £30,000 a year in fees. Legislation was introduced by the Scottish Parliament in 2006 to tighten up control of charities following scandals involving cancer charities.
The new rules mean charities must show they have a charitable aim, such as providing education, but also that they have a wider public benefit. In the case of independent schools, where the benefit is only provided to a section of the public, the charity must show it does not operate unduly restrictive practices, such as overly high fees.
Despite suggestions that privately educated athletes dominated Team GB, 70 per cent of Scotland’s medal winners went to state schools. However, most benefitted from special facilities, such as swimmer Michael Jamieson, who attended the council-run Glasgow School of Sport.
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