The Independent reports that the PM appears to backtrack on manifesto pledge requiring independent schools to sponsor academies, forge partnerships or offer scholarships to retain charitable status
However, it now emerges that an advice service has been set up instead, suggesting that the plan has been quietly dropped.
The “Systems Partnership Unit” has been created to help those schools that want to support state primaries and secondaries – but on a voluntary basis.
The move was criticised immediately by Angela Rayner, Labour’s education spokeswoman, who said: “Ministers are ripping up the manifesto on which they stood just months ago page by page. The Education Secretary has had to give up on providing free breakfasts, abolishing free lunches, opening new grammar schools, sticking to her free schools target, the healthy pupil fund, and now she is refusing to deliver yet another election promise.”
And Layla Moran, for the Liberal Democrats, said: “If private schools are to get tax breaks, they need to prove they deserve them. This is an example of the Tories helping their friends and not those who need it the most.”
To qualify as a charity they must demonstrate that they provide “public benefit” to a reasonably wide section of the public, rather than to a narrow group of wealthy individuals.
However, there has been growing criticism that many private schools pay little more than lip service to this requirement – hence the Conservative pledge to toughen up the rules.
But Barnaby Lenon, head of the Independent Schools Council, said a voluntary approach was more likely to yield success. “However, there needs to be an understanding that there is a moral obligation on large schools with capacity to be involved to some degree”
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