Uncharitable slur

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Rather than Councillor Douglas Chapman (Letters 23 January) “waiting patiently” for details of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator’s (OSCR) testing of 13 independent schools, he could have checked its website.

Full reports can be found on all schools that have passed the charity test since it was introduced, and the three yet to demonstrate their public benefit.

The test that OSCR puts the schools through is onerous, time-consuming and comprehensive. It is the direct result of the focus on independent schools by the councillor’s party and others as the Charities Bill passed through the Scottish Parliament in 2005. 

It is a sterner test than exists in England and Wales or in Northern Ireland.

He asks if schools would seek charitable status “if there was not any financial advantage in being so”. Many schools were charities long before current local taxation arrangements existed.

They are charities for no other reason than that they have charitable purpose – in most cases, the advancement of education – something they manifestly demonstrate. To be recognised as such by OSCR’s test, schools must demonstrate that they provide public benefit – which they do by educational, financial means and by other community activities linked to their stated charitable purposes.

Means-tested bursaries to widen access provided by independent schools in Scotland easily outweigh any financial relief from non-domestic rates.

Parents make many sacrifices to educate their children independently. They do so as council and national taxpayers as well. Neither they nor the Scottish schools they support deserve to have their work, or their pupils, labelled as “obscene”.

John Edward

Scottish Council of Independent Schools