The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (“OSCR”) has announced plans to review the charitable status of all of the independent schools which it regulates. OSCR is reportedly concerned that the fees charged by the schools represent an undue restriction on the public’s ability to access the benefit these schools provide i.e. the charity test. The test requires that all charities have only one or more of the charitable purposes set out in the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and that they provide ‘public benefit’. The review process will begin this Autumn and will involve OSCR considering whether around 60 fee-charging schools meet the charity test.
While the scale of this review may raise a few eyebrows, the decision to look at independent schools is unsurprising given developments over the last few years. In 2007 OSCR undertook a review of eleven schools, of which it identified four that had not demonstrated that they met the charity test. As we reported, after further investigations these schools eventually had their charitable status confirmed last November.
We understand the initial review of papers is already underway, and OSCR will also be consulting with school governors and bursars. An initial update on the review is expected in September and we will keep you up to date on progress. We will also be watching out for announcements of other similar reviews of charitable status, as OSCR has identified other groups of charities such as those working overseas, those affected by the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, care homes, universities and private hospital as ‘high risk’.