Scottish independent schools demand removal from list of 'high-risk' charities

Draft corporate plan of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator says a priority remains assessing the public benefit of private schools

Schools on 'high-risk' charities list
Schools on 'high-risk' charities list

The Scottish Council of Independent Schools has asked Scotland’s charity regulator to remove independent schools from its list of charities considered at high risk of failing to provide a public benefit.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator set up the list as a guideline for carrying out its rolling review of charities and the public benefit they provide.

Under the review, the OSCR is removing from its register those charities that were automatically given a place when the regulator was set up in 2006 because they were recognised by HM Revenue & Customs as having charitable purposes, but which it now believes do not provide public benefit.

The OSCR has placed independent schools in a category of high-risk charities that it believes have "possible unduly restrictive conditions in place on accessing benefit".

It means the schools have been one of the OSCR’s priorities in the review. Care homes, universities and private hospitals are in the same category.

The Scottish Council of Independent Schools said in a policy document published last week that it was disappointed the schools were still in the high-risk category because many had taken major steps to become more accessible to pupils who could not afford the fees.

"SCIS notes with disappointment that in its draft corporate plan for 2011 to 2014 the OSCR continues to identify independent schools as ‘high-risk’ charities under its risk-based approach," the document says.

"SCIS is confident that the enhanced awareness and understanding of the sector that was afforded by the rolling review will provide assurance to the OSCR that independent schools do not present a substantially greater risk than other higher-income charities.

"Emerging trends in increased financial assistance, increased number of beneficiaries and enhanced non-charged-for benefits provided by the schools constitute grounds for reducing their ‘risk status’."

The OSCR is reviewing the public benefit of Cargilfield Preparatory School, near Edinburgh, as part of its rolling review.

In a statement, the regulator said it would not comment on individual cases but was still consulting on its draft corporate plan for 2011 to 2014, under which independent schools would remain on the list of higher-risk charities.

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