Private schools and public benefit; staff engagement at the regulator; is the identity of the sector being undermined?

Comments from readers on the Third Sector website

Tristram Hunt announced the Labour policy on private schools
Tristram Hunt announced the Labour policy on private schools

Labour partnership plan for private school sector

A Labour government would require private schools to draw up agreements saying how they would support their state counterparts, or face losing their business rate relief. Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said his party would make the £700m he said private schools - most of which are charities - would receive in business rate relief over the next five-year parliamentary term conditional on them meeting minimum standards of partnership with the state sector.

On ThirdSector.co.uk, Chris Priestley said: "Interesting approach. Fee-charging schools already have to demonstrate they meet the much-discussed public benefit test, and without more detail it is unclear how this would work and if it is really needed. Does this mean the opposition doesn't trust the Charity Commission to do its job?

Tim Diggle: "Considering the financial inequality between the two systems, one can only conclude that the state sector is highly effective in its achievements; but how much more could it do if it were granted the same level of funding per pupil as the private education sector?"

Staff engagement down at Charity Commission

Employee engagement levels at the Charity Commission have fallen over the past year, with particular declines in staff confidence in the regulator's leadership and change-management capacity, according to this year's Civil Service People Survey. The commission's score declined in eight of the nine "drivers of engagement" areas measured in the survey, which asked commission staff to what extent they agreed with statements about matters such as their work, management, pay and wellbeing.

John Weth commented: "These figures tend to reinforce National Audit Office/Public Accounts Committee review findings of poor commission management over the past 20 years. They suggest how steep a mountain chief executive Paula Sussex needs to climb before the commission can become the well-managed regulator and employer charities and our society need."

Voluntary sector 'has been heavily damaged'

Voluntary sector groups have undergone heavy damage and there are few signs that things will improve, according to Andy Benson, co-convenor of the pressure group the National Coalition for Independent Action.

Summing up the inquiry the NCIA has recently completed into the future of voluntary services, Benson said that the "identity and raison d'etre" of voluntary sector organisations were being undermined by having to depend on reduced state funding under more restrictive conditions at a time of increased demands on their services.

He criticised charity umbrella bodies for failing to do enough in response.

Paul Barasi commented: "Fair comment from Andy as far as it goes, but the sector needs to come up with the alternative and make it happen. Criticising the failure of sector leadership is similar to criticising the failure of politicians and governments. Being the government's delivery boy is not the sector's job.

"For too long the sector has been pulled out of shape by collusion between governments that get it wrong and sector leaders without guts, vision and values. The sector needs to quit its obsession with changing the government agenda and press ahead with its own agenda and our relationship with the people."

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