Private schools urged to joint fight against obesity

A local government think tank has called for independent schools with charitable status to open their sport facilities to local clubs for at least 10 hours a week to help reduce obesity.

Weighing Up the Advantages: why obesity matters, by the New Local Government Network, assesses what councils can do to fight obesity.

It reads: “The Charities Act 2006 states that all charities must be established to promote, for the benefit of the public, one of a number of ‘charitable’ purposes: these purposes include the advancement of amateur sport.”

James Hulme, head of communications at the network, said he wanted schools to sign up to the initiative voluntarily, but added that if they didn’t it might be worth looking at legislation. “Independent schools benefit from tax breaks, and this is a way for them to give a small amount back to their localities,” he said.

Matthew Burgess, general counsel of the Independent Schools Council, said independent schools were not resistant to becoming more involved with their communities. “The Charity Commission has moved the focus away from schools’ traditional community activities and on to bursaries,” he said. “The latest guidance from the commission actually indicates that making school resources available for the local community counts for nothing in the public benefit equation.”

The commission’s draft guidance on how fee-charging charities can demonstrate public benefit, Public Benefit and Fee-charging, was published earlier this month. It lists “allowing a state-maintained school to use its educational facilities” as a way for a fee-paying school to demonstrate public benefit that is related to its charitable aims.

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