Government says policy pledge on private schools has not been dropped

The Department for Education describes as 'speculation' a Times story saying the government has backed down on plans to remove charitable status from private schools that don't help state-run counterparts

Private schools: 'no immediate plans' to scrap policy
Private schools: 'no immediate plans' to scrap policy

The Department for Education has played down speculation that it has dropped a policy pledge to force private schools to help state schools or risk losing their charitable status.

A story in The Times newspaper today said the government had backed down on proposals to remove charitable status from private schools that did not help their state-run counterparts and to make it more difficult for schools to show they met the Charity Commission’s public benefit test.

But a spokesman for the Department for Education told Third Sector that the claims the policy had been dropped were "speculation" and there were "no immediate plans" to scrap the policy.

The idea of forcing private schools to support state-run schools was floated in a green paper released by the DfE last year.

The paper proposed creating expectations that independent schools support existing state schools or help open new ones, or offer private school places to children whose families could not afford the fees.

There was also a proposal in the green paper to allow selective schools to expand, or new ones to open, if they supported non-selective schools.

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said last year that she wanted to make it tougher for independent schools to prove they deserved charitable status, adding that independent schools were becoming "more and more divorced from normal life".

The proposals were also included in the Conservative manifesto for this year’s general election, with an additional option of stripping private schools of their charitable status if progress was not made on academy sponsorship or creating free schools.

The manifesto said: "We will work with the Independent Schools Council to ensure that at least 100 leading independent schools become involved in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools in the state system, keeping open the option of changing the tax status of independent schools if progress is not made."

Approximately half of the private schools in England are charities, but there have been calls for their charitable status to be removed, most recently by Robert Halfon MP, the Conservative chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee.

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