Exclusive schools win fight to keep charity status

St George's. Picture: Dan Phillips

St George's. Picture: Dan Phillips

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TWO of Edinburgh’s most exclusive private schools have won their battle for charity status following a review by the national regulator.

St George’s School for Girls and Fettes College were ordered to widen access after their “unduly restrictive fees” meant they fell foul of Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) criteria.

But now the watchdog has ruled that the schools’ charitable status should be retained – despite charging some pupils up to £27,000 per year.

The OSCR found both had taken “sufficient measures” to meet the requirements, with 11 per cent of Fettes’ pupils and 14 per cent at St George’s now receiving bursaries to broaden access to less affluent families.

Today, Anne Everest, headteacher at St George’s School for Girls, said she was “delighted” with the decision that entitles the schools to certain tax reliefs and Gift Aid.

She said: “We have worked closely with the OSCR over the last few months so that they now have a full and detailed picture of the public benefit we provide.

“We have also introduced a new constitution for the school and, crucially, increased the number of means-tested bursaries we offer in a measured and sustainable way”.

Her counterpart at Fettes College, headmaster Michael Spens, said: “Fettes College is gratified that the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has concluded that the requirements of the direction issued in January of this year have been complied with and that Fettes College has now passed the charity test.”

Martin Tyson, the OSCR’s head of registration, said that the process was aimed at maintaining public confidence in charitable status by ensuring that Scottish charities meet the required standard.

He said: “As regulator, we must ensure that charities provide public benefit as set out in the legislation. Our experience is that, where we have issued directions to widen access, schools have taken the necessary steps to comply and thereby retain charitable status.

“Fettes College and St George’s School for Girls have both addressed the issues we identified as a priority and have taken early action to widen access to an extent consistent with earlier cases that have met the charity test.”

Fettes charges £12,555 per year for primary pupils and £19,680 for those who are boarding. Fees for secondary pupils are £20,235 and £27,150 a year for boarders.

St George’s School charges annual fees of £8010 for primary pupils and £10,932 for secondary pupils.

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com