Private matters

Think tank: EDSK

Author(s): Tom Richmon; Eleanor Regan

July 5, 2023

This report from UK think tank EDSK provides an investigation into independent schools and charitable status in England.

The political debate over the role, status and taxation of independent (‘private’) schools in England shows no sign of abating. Two issues have attracted considerable attention in recent months: the prospect of VAT being added to independent school fees; and the charitable status of independent schools. In the first part of this research project – published in June 2023 – EDSK analysed the claim that adding VAT to fees would raise £1.6 billion a year, and found that such a policy was unlikely to raise such a significant sum and could end up raising very little money at all. This report – the second half of the same project – explores the issue of charitable status to understand why it has become so contentious in relation to independent schools and whether the suggestion that independent schools should be ‘stripped’ of their charitable status deserves consideration. The report finds that any attempt by government to remove charitable status from independent schools in England would almost certainly end in failure due to the legal obstacles that it would encounter. The report recommends that the focus should instead be on reforming charity law so that charitable independent schools have to do more to support disadvantaged students and local state schools.