Joint Committee on the Draft Charities Bill Written Evidence

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 years—the 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.

June 2004

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