Four independent schools in Scotland that failed the "charity test" for providing a public benefit have passed after putting in place measures to widen access to their services.
Lomond School in Helensburgh, St Leonards School in St Andrews, Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh and Hutchesons’ Educational Trust in Glasgow were told in October 2008 by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that they "did not, on balance, provide public benefit".
Under the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005, charities must show that their activities provide a benefit to the public.
The OSCR said that the schools charged high fees and did not offer enough help to those unable to afford the fees. It gave them three years to implement reforms. Today it has announced that, after assessing these reforms, it is satisfied that all four schools provide a public benefit. The ruling means the schools can keep their charitable status.
Reports on the schools, published by the OSCR, show they introduced a range of activities to demonstrate their provision of public benefit. St Leonards School, a junior and a senior school in St Andrews, now provides means-tested fee remissions worth 5 per cent of its income and hosts music exams and science and creative writing conferences in which pupils from other schools can take part.
Hutchesons’ Educational Trust, a large independent primary and a secondary school in Glasgow, provides bursaries worth 4.9 per cent of fee income to 9.9 per cent of pupils on the school roll and sends its pupils to mentor children at state primary schools.
Lomond School, a medium-sized independent nursery, junior and senior school in Helensburgh, offers means-tested bursaries of 6 per cent of the school’s fee income and assists students from South Africa and eastern Europe.
Merchiston Castle School, a medium-sized independent junior and senior school for boys in Edinburgh, provides means-tested bursaries of 8.2 per cent of gross income to 14.7 per cent of the school roll and gives 100 per cent bursaries to 11 pupils. It also assists a new academy school in England.
The Very Reverend Dr Graham Forbes, chair of the OSCR, said the schools had significantly widened access.
"We have closely scrutinised the submissions made to us by the four schools and maintained a dialogue with them over the past three years," he said. "The schools have enhanced financial support for lower-income families and made their facilities more widely available."
He said the OSCR would monitor the schools to make sure their reforms were maintained and that fee-charging schools would "remain a priority category in the OSCR’s ongoing work".