Commissioners free to take part in schools debate

The Charity Commission has decided that none of its board members should withdraw from decisions on the public benefit of private schools on the grounds that they went to private schools themselves.

The decision is based on legal advice that also led to the decision that Dame Suzi Leather, the commission chair, will play no part in such decisions because one of her children goes to a private school. She and five other commissioners were privately educated, and three went to state schools.

Some lawyers have argued that commissioners who went to private schools could have conflicting loyalties when considering whether private schools provided sufficient public benefit to justify charitable status (Third Sector, 5 September).

But a commission statement said: "Board members' educational backgrounds are recorded by the commission on their appointment and have been declared at meetings and disclosed publicly.

"We have never considered that having any particular background should constitute grounds for withdrawing from decisions in this area. Board members, like anyone in a public role, have private lives, personal affiliations and identities. We manage these by acknowledging that they exist."

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