Two private schools pass the public benefit test a year after failing to meet requirements

St Anselm's School Trust and Highfield Priory School satisfy Charity Commission by increasing the number of bursaries on offer

The two independent schools that failed the Charity Commission public benefit test have satisfied the regulator’s requirements after they increased the number of bursaries they offer, the regulator has confirmed.

In July 2009, the commission decided that St Anselm’s School Trust in Derbyshire and Highfield Priory School in Lancashire were both providing insufficient public benefit and had failed the test.

The regulator confirmed today that the schools had submitted plans to offer additional bursaries at a higher value, which meant they passed the public benefit test.

It has also published reports examining the public benefit offered by four arts charities: the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, the Young Concert Artists Trust, the Castle Players, and Gwent Ballet Theatre. The commission found that all four charities were being administered for public benefit.

Changes made by St Anselm’s School include increasing the value of its bursaries to 100 per cent of fees, - up from the previous level of 90 per cent - and increasing the proportion of bursaries from 0.8 per cent of the total number of pupils to 3.6 per cent by 2011/12.

Highfield Priory School, which previously offered no bursaries, has set out plans to support 6.6 per cent of its pupils through bursaries by 2014/15.

Neither school had increased its fees for other students, the commission said.

Simon Northcott, headmaster of St Anselm’s School, said three pupils were now attending the school under its bursary scheme, with a fourth due to start this September.

He added that the cost of the bursaries to the 230-pupil school was about £33,000 a year at a time when it was difficult to fundraise.

Northcott said dealing with the commission had been hugely time-consuming.

"The commission was never clear about what we had to do to pass parts of the test," he said.

A Highfield Priory School statement said the governors of the school had worked closely with the commission over the previous year to develop a plan to address the issues.

It added: "Full and partial bursaries will be created. The value of such bursaries is projected to be 4.9 per cent of fee income. The governors will seek to raise funds, including sponsorship and donations, to pay for the bursaries, rather than drawing on the schools resources."

A statement from the Independent Schools Council said that it welcomed the commission’s decision on the two schools, but it remained concerned about the commission’s approach to the public benefit of independent schools that are charities.

It added that the announcement did "nothing to dispel the uncertainty created by the commission and emphasises the need for a definitive legal ruling on the commission’s approach".

The ISC said it had been seeking permission to apply for judicial review of the Charity Commission’s guidance and expected to hear shortly whether the application had been granted.

The commission also announced that Penylan House Jewish Retirement and Nursing Home, which failed the initial test, had passed after it developed a "clear strategy for providing and publicising the assistance it offers to those who could not otherwise afford to use its services".

The Rest, a convalescent hotel in Porthcawl, Wales, which the regulator was initially unable to assess for public benefit because it was deemed to be operating outside of its charitable objects, has been given an additional four months to develop an action plan.

Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the Charity Commission, said: "Charities play a vital role in society, and showing how they benefit the public is an essential part of that. We have consistently said that most charities can demonstrate sufficiently how they benefit the public, and the arts charities, schools and care homes we have worked with have proved this."

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