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Feeling the benefit

Is the public benefit case really a triumph for independent schools? Helen Harvie reports

30 January 2012

The long-awaited 116-page judgment by the Charity Tribunal on public benefit (The Independent Schools Council v The Charity Commission [2011] UKUT 421 (TCC) 13 October 2011) provides some clarity to independent schools and may have implications for other fee-charging charities that have to justify their continuing charitable status.

The ISC had challenged the lawfulness of the Charity Commission guidance on public benefit for fee-charging charities and particularly independent schools. This was triggered by two independent schools ‘failing’ the public benefit review carried out on 12 charities. The ISC believed that the commission had exceeded its remit and attempted to change existing law, rather than interpreting it and providing guidance. The commission’s emphasis on means-tested bursaries for those who could not afford the fees was perceived as an attempt to introduce a mandatory element of poverty relief into an educational trust. The indication that only f...

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