The progressives of the Victorian era would be proud, but the old fashioned liberals are rolling in their graves:
Independent schools are to be made to open their doors to more children from poor homes under guidelines announced to stop them being run as “exclusive clubs”.
Schools failing to meet the regulations could have bank accounts frozen, trustees suspended, buildings seized or even be closed down under a range of sanctions.
In the new guidance from the Charity Commission, schools are told they should consider charging lower fees so more families are able to afford places.
Schools with higher charges have been informed they should ensure money is set aside to provide free or subsidised places for poor pupils. They should also consider sharing facilities and expert teachers with local state schools.
The recommendations, which come in a landmark document, are designed to ensure independent schools justify their charitable status by meeting a “public benefit” test and hold on to £100 million-a-year tax-breaks.
Schools may be subjected to “random” spot checks and inspections to ensure they comply.
Education experts say some may have to increase class sizes, ditch A-level courses or cut teachers’ perks to fund more free places.
Under Labour’s 2006 Charities Act, organisations including independent schools, hospitals and religious groups no longer have an automatic right to call themselves charities.
According to the guidance, they must prove “people in poverty” benefit from their services – even if they cannot afford fees.
“At the extreme, charities should not be seen as ‘exclusive clubs’ that only a few can join, since the ‘public’ benefit from that is very limited,” says the document.
Now they pass the cui bono publico test, of course, but at what cost?