Thursday, 8 July 2010

Charity Starts At School

Twelve months ago the Charity Commission concluded that St Anselm's private school was “not currently operating for the public benefit” and challenged its charitable status. This threatened a raft of charity perks which the £15 000 pa school enjoyed – including reduced business rates and opt-outs from income/corporation tax, capital gains tax and stamp duty.

One year on and St Anselm’s School has secured its charitable status by pledging “to triple the number of children with full bursaries”. Interesting spin here by the Telegraph as, in actual fact, the number of bursaries has increased from one to three. That’s a total of 1.3% of 230 pupils receiving bursaries. But tripling sounds much more philanthropic than “extended to three”.

In its report, the Charity Commission commends St Anselm’s selection procedures for not being "academically selective". Well why would they? All they care about is a family’s ability to pay, not the academic prowess of a child. Interestingly, when a person applies for a bursary, there is a formal testing process involved. This hardly seems fair and equitable – oh yeah, we don’t care if the rich kids are as thick as shit, but if we let a prole in they better be clever otherwise they won’t be able to compete with our received wisdom following years of inbreeding.

Charitable status should be reserved for those organisations which help the most needy and vulnerable – not the cleverest or richest. The benefits associated with being a charity are designed to do more good, not make more profit. St Anselm’s might help three intelligent working-class kids every year, but what about those not as academically gifted? Just because someone has their fees paid does not mean that they will fit in if they can’t afford trendy clothes or the latest technology. Giving places to disadvantaged pupils will never challenge the inherent hierarchy and elitism at fee paying schools – if anything it will make it worse.

David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools said “the vast majority of schools . . . do not have the resources to be able to pay for fully-funded bursaries. . . the commission has to get into the real world”. I agree with Mr Hanson – the commission should get into the real world because there is something fundamentally wrong when independent schools are afforded charity status. Their very existence is incompatible with community benefit because entry is based on an ability to pay. When a poor pupil does receive a bursary, then entrance is determined by an arbitrary measure of intelligence. Either way, access depends on discrimination and this acts to reinforce divisions within society and fortify social and economic stratification.


Pete @ Eyes on Power said...

That is absolutely disgusting. The only reason they are offering bursaries because it is more profitable to be classed as a charity. If they couldn't be classed as this then they wouldn't bother offering them. Therefore this isn't charity and THEY ARN'T A CHARITY.

Dan @ Eyes on Power said...

Interesting that David Miliband has said he would ensure private schools couldn't have charitable status. Who'd have thunk it?

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