Commission to update independent schools guidance

Plus: guidance on umbrella trusts, helpline refused registration and updated trustee guide

Academy schools: umbrellas must be charities
Academy schools: umbrellas must be charities

The Charity Commission is to update its public benefit guidance for independent charitable schools so that it includes more examples of reporting on sharing facilities in the areas of sports, arts and music.

It will also carry out research with the Independent Schools Council to assess whether partnerships between private and state schools increase as a result. This follows the defeat in the House of Lords of an amendment to the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill that would have imposed statutory public benefit obligations on independent charitable schools.

The amendment was another attempt to sidetrack the original purpose behind the bill and turn it into what Lord Hodgson has called "a Christmas tree bill" hung with "bells and whistles" amendments inconsistent with the original idea. It has, however, resulted in renewed dialogue between the commission and the ISC about public benefit.

Umbrella trusts for schools

The commission has published guidance on umbrella trusts for schools. The guidance explains that these are charities established to offer services and support to a number of schools, which may be either academies or non-academy schools. The guidance states that umbrella trusts must register as charities, even where they support academies, which are exempt charities.

Helpline refused registration

The commission has refused to register as a charitable incorporated organisation a helpline providing advice and information to retirees on options for income at retirement. The regulator was not satisfied that the organisation provided education in the charitable sense or that its services were provided for the public benefit rather than the personal benefit of individuals. It therefore concluded that the purposes proposed for the CIO were not exclusively charitable and refused to register it because it was not satisfied that it would be a charity at the time of registration.

Updated guidance for all trustees

The commission has published the final version of its revised core guidance for charity trustees on their duties and responsibilities – The Essential Trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do (CC3). This is a complete rewrite of previous guidance.

Significant changes were made to the final version of CC3 to take account of issues raised during a consultation, which finished last November. A revised draft was published in March.

On the whole, all charity trustees and those who advise them should find the revised CC3 helpful. It provides a clearer explanation of what the law and the commission expect of charity trustees.

This column is written by Adrian Pashley, charities editor at Thomson Reuters, Practical Law, on behalf of the Charity Law Association

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