Entrance exams get the all-clear

Finalised public benefit guidance says schools that test potential pupils are not unreasonably restricting access

Schools that require students to pass entrance exams are not unreasonably restricting the public benefit they provide, according to the Charity Commission's finalised Public Benefit and the Advancement of Education guidance.

The commission's finalised document says entrance exams are reasonable if they are held "purely because people without a certain level of academic ability will not be able to benefit fully from the teaching at that establishment". But it adds that a school that wrote its entrance examination in Latin, for example, would be "using the exam as a means of exclusion".

The guidance also confirms that religious schools do not contravene the requirement for education to be neutral or uncontroversial. It says religious schools are "often as much about operating in accordance with particular cultural and religious customs and traditions as they are about providing religious instruction". It says their education will be deemed to be "balanced and neutral" if it meets "prescribed educational standards".

"The school might also have a secondary aim to advance religion, which complements its advancement of education aim," the document adds.

The guidance also emphasises that education does not have to be formal, and that schools do not have to focus only on educating children. It says they can provide adult or pre-school education for the wider community, or foster community spirit in their pupils through volunteering. Governors who think their school's objects are too narrowly defined should look into changing them, it says.

The commission has undertaken to consult on separate guidance on think tanks and the education of professionals by professional bodies.

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