Scottish fee-charging school fails 'charity test'

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator says Wellington School must increase its spend on means-tested assistance or face losing its charitable status

The OSCR
The OSCR

A fee-charging school in Scotland has failed the 'charity test', while five others have passed, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has announced today.

It has revealed its decisions on six of the 40 fee-charging schools whose charitable status it is reviewing as a "priority group" for assessment by summer 2014.

In a report on its assessment of Wellington School in Ayr, the OSCR says that it fails to meet the charity test because it places "unduly restrictive conditions" on access to the benefits provided by the school.

The OSCR’s report says: "The fees charged by the charity are substantial and represent a restriction on accessing the majority of the benefit the charity provides. Although the charity offers means-tested assistance to those who are unable to pay the full fees, it commits only 3.1 per cent of its income to such assistance and it focuses primarily on low-value bursary awards."

In order to meet the public benefit requirement, the report says, the school must increase its spend on means-tested assistance by 31 October next year or face losing its charitable status.

Five other fee-charging schools have passed the test. They are St Margaret's School for Girls and Robert Gordon's College, both in Aberdeen, Kelvinside Academy and Belmont House, both in Glasgow, and Glenalmond College in Perthshire.

Martin Tyson, head of registration at the OSCR, said: "As regulator, we must ensure that charities provide public benefit as set out in the legislation. We have assessed 32 fee-charging schools and established this process as part of our ongoing work.

"Of the decisions announced today, five schools have satisfied us that they provide a sufficient level of public benefit. But one, Wellington School, has not, and we have therefore issued a direction to comply with the legislation passed by the Scottish parliament."

Mark Parlour, headmaster of Wellington School, said: "Naturally, we are very disappointed by this outcome given the very extensive commitment to public benefit in the local community and beyond that our staff and pupils make. It is clear from the OSCR's direction that we have met the necessary regulations, save for the percentage of our income that we allocate to means-tested bursaries.

"We are confident that, working closely with the OSCR, we will satisfy the direction of the regulator within the time specified."

The OSCR said it was continuing discussions with three further fee-charging schools – Fernhill School in Glasgow, Struthers Memorial Church in Greenock and the International School of Aberdeen – because their "particular characteristics required more detailed consideration".

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