Charity Commission to publish first public benefit reports

Manchester Grammar School and Church Mission Society among 12 'guinea pigs'

The long-running controversy over the charitable status of fee-charging schools reaches a crucial stage tomorrow with the publication of the first 12 public benefit assessments by the Charity Commission.

The assessments say whether or not the charities concerned are providing sufficient public benefit, measured against the commission's published guidance, to justify their charitable status and the tax benefits that go with it.

Five of the 12 are fee-charging schools. It is understood that some of them have been advised that they do not provide sufficient public benefit at present and have been told to produce a plan for improvement within a year.

None of the 12 is threatened with immediate or imminent removal of their charitable status, but the commission and the Government are braced for protest from the powerful independent schools lobby, including the right-leaning national press.

It is also understood that the Church Mission Society has been deemed to provide sufficient public benefit. There had been fears that evangelistic mission work would not pass the test.

The assessments have been compiled using questionnaires filled in by the charities, research by the commission and visits by commission staff.

Full details of the assessments will be published on at midnight tonight, and will feature in tomorrow's Third Sector Daily bulletin.

The independent schools on the list of ‘guinea pigs' are: Manchester Grammar School; Manor House School; Pangbourne College; St Anselm's School; and Highfield Priory School.

The other charities are: United Christian Broadcasters; London Sri Murugan Temple; Tara Mahayana Buddhist Centre; Church Mission Society; Cornwall Old People's Housing Society; Penylan House, Jewish Retirement and Nursing Home; and The Rest convalescent hotel in Wales.

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