The independent school sector frequently points out that a third of its pupils receive financial assistance. However, school census data shows that most of those pupils do not come from poor households.
Instead, the lion’s share of financial assistance – £420m – goes on non-means-tested academic scholarships, and discounts for staff, siblings, and offspring of senior armed forces personnel and clergy. The figures in the school census will renew concerns that independent schools are not doing enough to justify their privileged charitable tax status.
In recent years, a number of schools have increased the earnings threshold under which families qualify for help. The Godolphin & Latymer School, in Hammersmith, west London, offers means-tested sliding-scale bursaries to pupils from homes with gross income of up to £140,000 a year.
St Paul’s School, a boys’ school in Barnes, south-west London, whose alumni include former chancellor George Osborne, has also introduced a bursary scheme to offer “more generous support to families with a household income less than £120k”. At St Paul’s Girls’ School, also in Hammersmith, the household income threshold for financial assistance is £110,000. And at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, parents earning up to £72,000 can qualify for some financial assistance .
Almost 43,000 children in 1,326 schools benefit from means-tested help, according to the census published by the Independent School Council. But nearly three times that number – 123,591 – were in receipt of “eligible family” discounts or non-means-tested scholarships. The census also reveals that the amount spent on means-tested scholarships dropped by 9% (£22m to £20m) from 2017 to 2018, while non-means-tested scholarships rose by 7% (£174m to £186m).
Through their charitable status, private schools enjoy significant tax breaks, including concessions with VAT and business rates, and relief from corporation tax if they make a surplus. One analysis of local authority business rates records published last year estimated that private schools would receive tax rebates totalling £522m over the next five years as a result of their status.
Read the full article Private schools ‘abuse charity status’ by giving discounts to richer families
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