Independent schools were told that the Charity Commission could "go nuclear" if they failed to earn their charitable status.
All schools face a "public good" test from next year as a result of new legislation designed to ensure they fulfil their charitable obligations. Rose Chapman, an executive with the Charity Commission, warned that it could remove their trustees or even freeze their bank accounts if any school failed to pass the test.
In an interview with the Financial Times, she made it clear that the commission did not want to go down that route – but that the powers were available to it.
Bernard Trafford, the chairman of Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, doubted whether many schools would fail.
"The vast and overwhelming majority of independent schools are already meeting any public benefit test that will be set," he said. "It is going to be very unlikely that [the ultimate threat] would happen."
The commission is consulting on the criteria for charitable obligations.Reuse content