Court victory for independent schools

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The Independent Online

Independent schools have won a major victory in their campaign to lift threats to their charitable status.

They have succeeded in obtaining a judicial review of the way the Charity Commission has been carrying out new "public benefit" tests to determine whether their charitable status is justified.

The independent schools complained it has ignored all the work they do with state schools – including sharing teachers and allowing them to use their sports facilities.

Instead, the Commission has concentrated on whether they offer free bursaries to disadvantaged children. So far, two of the five schools to be reviewed – both prep schools – have been warned their charitable status is not justified.

Matthew Burgess, the deputy chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), which brought the case for a judicial review, said: "Our schools have had to wait a long time but the [High] Court has finally confirmed today that ISC's central contention – that the Charity Commission's guidance on public benefit is legally flawed – is robust and should receive a full hearing."

This is the second victory for the independent schools over the way the tests – demanded by new legislation – have been carried out.

Only last week, the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, announced he had ordered the Charities Tribunal – a legal panel – to review the way the law had been applied.

The Charity Commission issued guidance in 2008 saying schools could meet the requirements of the tests in a number of ways but the simplest would be to provide more bursaries.