Why private schools are inherently charitable; what went wrong at BeatBullying; juggling passion with good management

Plus: why data protection experts could be in demand; the cost of scaling up

Private schools
Private schools

Independent charitable schools are more than just businesses

I read with interest your story about how Labour would make fee-charging schools support state counterparts or lose business rate relief. Personally, I believe that education is inherently a charitable activity, which is why I find the push to privatisation and corporatisation of education very unsettling.

In the US, for-profit schools started coming unglued soon after their advent, and I expect the same to happen here. Alumni give generously to independent schools, colleges and universities primarily for philanthropic reasons - in recognition of the benefit they received from their own education, they give money for bursaries as well as capital for upkeep and improvements. This doesn't sound like "business" to me. And if these schools did not exist, the burden on state education would increase substantially.

Independent schools can innovate, and they can be more representative of the strongly held beliefs of the parents and students. I don't know why the left in this country has such a problem with independent schools, unless it's plain old classism.

Catherine Demetriadi, Salisbury, Wiltshire

The crisis that caused BeatBullying to collapse

At BeatBullying, there were so many staff who had little or no professional experience outside of the charity. This is what made it more insular, resistant to change and dependent on the chief executive. If you've never known anything else, how are you going to know what is possible, let alone have the confidence to push for change?

Lily Bentley, London SE19

There are parallels with the collapse of the Scottish charity One Plus, which went into liquidation in 2007. One of the big questions in both cases is how auditors gave clean bills of health. Maybe what we need is stronger guidance from regulators on what it means for a charity to be a going concern.

Martin Crewe Director, Barnardo's Scotland, Edinburgh

Tension between passion and management makes us special

In your editorial headlined "Who needs passion if you run a tight ship?", you appear to argue that passion and effective management do not sit well together. As a former Charity Commission chair, I put it to you that the delicate tension between passion and good management is the unique selling point of the sector.

This is what differentiates charities from other organisations and makes them special. It sometimes feels like a juggling act and things don't just run like clockwork. Charities create structures to organise their passions into publicly accountable, relevant support to their beneficiaries. They are more accountable to the public than the private sector because of the wide range of stakeholder groups they have to satisfy. And it is passion at the end of the day that drives them on.

Geraldine Peacock, Wells, Somerset

Data protection law will push up the pay of qualified officers

I write regarding your article last month on new data protection regulation and, specifically, the comments that there is an abundance of experienced data protection officers and that the real issue is the culture and allocation of resources.

There are indeed few lawyers who are genuine specialists in data protection - but equally, in my experience, the UK does not seem to be overflowing with suitably qualified data protection officers who really understand the law and how to apply it. If this new requirement is introduced, it is bound to result in more demand for data protection officers and is likely to push up their pay - something that will hurt charities and businesses alike.

Mike Gardner, Partner, Wedlake Bell, London WC1

Expansion is costly and not appropriate for many charities

The think tank NPC suggests that smaller charities should consider scaling up their work to help more beneficiaries. But not all small charities want to expand or scale up.

Some smaller charities that I have supported in my consultancy work have hit real difficulties because scaling up has associated costs that they then cannot meet until someone buys the extra provision. I haven't found one that has managed this through venture philanthropy (whatever that really means); and licensing or franchising their services is difficult, unless they are doing something unique.

When charities are doing things well, it tends to be in the areas that you cannot franchise: the personal enthusiasm, passion and dedication of particular individuals who drive things forward.

Elizabeth Balgobin, Consultant, London N15

Please send letters to thirdsector@haymarket.com or Third Sector, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington TW11 9BE

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