Government backs down over academy schools

They will not be given exempt charity status after all, says schools minister Vernon Coaker

The Government has abandoned plans to give academy schools exempt charity status following stiff opposition from the Charity Commission.

The Children, Schools and Families Bill, which is going through Parliament, includes a proposal to pass responsibility for regulating 200 academy trusts from the commission to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

The commission described the proposal as a "retrograde step, at odds with the direction of government policy on exempt charities" , and urged MPs to oppose it.

In Parliament last month, schools secretary Ed Balls rejected calls to drop the proposal.

But Vernon Coaker, the schools minister, has this week tabled an amendment to the bill that will result in the omission of clause 42, which would have granted academy schools exempt charity status.

In a letter to the Children, Schools and Families Public Bill Committee, Coaker said: "Following discussions with the commission, its chief executive has confirmed that it will take a number of steps to simplify the registration process for academies, including a review of ways they can be supported through the registration process.

"I am now satisfied that the Government can meet its objectives without the need for clause 42."

A spokeswoman for the commission said: "Today's decision gives clarity and certainty to those academies that are currently registered charities and for those that will be establishing academies in the future.

"Keeping academies within the mainstream charity framework avoids any confusion about their status, accountability, transparency or independence."


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