Charles Kenyon: Don't berate the schools that lay such golden eggs

Private schools such as Harrow play their part in charitable enterprises, says our columnist

The general election is near, so we have the usual berating of the charitable status of independent schools by some politicians. But objectors should do their homework before they stuff a goose that lays a golden egg.

Many schools with charitable status are part of bigger foundations, providing educational support to local children or orphans. Harrow is a popular choice for rural families such as ours because it is close to London and allows boys to learn with their fellows from a range of backgrounds.

The school and its governors are the centre of the Harrow School Foundation, which includes the John Lyon School and John Lyon's Charity. The latter made grants of £7.4m last year and has helped about 1,300 educational and youth organisations in nine specified north-west London boroughs in the past 20 years. This includes providing supplementary schooling for pupils from ethnic minority groups to help them with maths, English and science, and funding a west London sports scholarship.

The boys who attend Harrow are fully aware of their obligations. Every year, they run from Hyde Park to school – many run back again – raising tens of thousands of pounds for charity. The duty that comes with privilege is part of this school's ethos – I am sure that is the same for most independent schools. My point is that you can't retain the parts of school charitable foundations that some rate socially useful and discard the rest. It is much more involved than that.

Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen, retiredcolonel@oldvicarage.net

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