Memorandum from Andrew Dodgshon (DCH 87)
The Joint Committee has a tremendous job of
work to do on the whole issue of what constitutes a charity and
what does not. I'd be grateful if you could put before members
my strong view that in education, at least, there should be a
fundamental rethink and that those fee-paying schools in the private
sector should be stripped of charitable status.
I write as someone who was educated at one such
school and has served as a governor on a further two. It seems
to me that these schools, by dint of entry selection by academic
means and direct marketing overseas, are plying for trade. Their
fee levels and asset values warrant them being stand alone businesses.
Lest we should think of them otherwise, please bear in mind I
have served as a governor when most of the time was spent on issues
relating to budgets and property. Their business is educating
the children of the elite.
It is true that the origin of many fee-paying
schools was charitable. This is certainly the case in respect
of the three schools I have been associated with. But that charity
related to the 16th century and is hardly a model for 2004.
In so far as links with the local community
are concerned it is difficult to be other than cynical. All schools,
irrespective of their foundation or status, are involved in some
way, shape and form with their local communities. Yet the fee-paying
schools are in a rush to trumpet this involvement as some justification
of charitable status. It is nothing of the sort. In my immediate
area, for example, two of the local fee-paying schools have the
lion's share of available green open space for their playing fields.
These spaces are not open to the public for out of school term
activities, even if there were a nominal charge. Their sports
facilities are the envy of the state sector but the doors are
firmly closed to the local community.
I did my best whilst a governor and trustee
of the local charity to do something about this lack of community
involvement. There was no positive response.
These schools have shown a remarkable tenacity
and survival instinct over 500 and more yearsthe removal
of government funded assisted places was the last blip on their
otherwise smooth path of profit. Stripping them of their charitable
status will be but another blip. I urge the committee to act with
a radical boldness of spirit in this matter.