On 9 December I was perplexed to read The Telegraph headline “Private schools plan to offer 10,000 free places to children from low-income backgrounds”.
Immediately I thought, ‘This is a good idea’
A few seconds later, I remembered that we are in the era of post truth politics. So, I thought let me look behind the spin and see what the proposal actually means.
Many of the UK’s fees collecting private schools are charities according to their tax status. This status has been challenged by successive governments who have found few instances of charitable work and more instances of price rigging. These schools also face the new prospect of Brexit and fewer fee paying EU students on their rolls.
To overcome this threat, The Independent Schools Council (ISC) has proposed to teach 10,000 state school students if the government agrees to pay them £5,550 per student. This will enable the private schools to demonstrate their charitable work to retain their charitable tax status and will assure them with a steady supply of students to replace the EU nationals who may prefer to go elsewhere post Brexit.
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-----In my view this proposal reminds me of the PPP (private public partnership) and PFI (Private Finance Initiative) proposals which have bled the state’s coffers and unduly benefited private firms. Here are some ways the state will be worse off by accepting the ISC initiative.
No further need to do charity work: Any private school charity has to demonstrate actual charitable work in order to enjoy its tax status as a charity. The ISC hopes this proposal will enable them to overcome criticism of not doing sufficient charitable work.
Raiding state schools of better able students: State schools already feel beleaguered with budget cuts affecting their ability to teach students. This proposal will result in a further exodus of better able students who will be cherry picked by the private schools.
I feel there is no need to accept the ISC proposals. ISC members already enjoy a subsidy in the form of a charitable tax status despite not complying with the requirements of a charity.
Secondly, the above proposal if accepted will resemble the Nissan deal where the state intervenes with a sweetheart deal to once again protect privileged profit making non charitable ‘charities’.
But, I must confess the ISC have adapted well to the era of post truth politics by presenting a self preserving proposal as a charitable act. Is it a case of eating cake and having it too?