According to today’s Daily Telegraph Alan Johnson wants to compel private schools to lend teaching staff to local comprehensives or risk the loss of their charitable status. The Charities Commission is currently drawing up criteria which will guide private schools in how they should meet the new "public benefit test" that is required of them and other charities. Many commentators feared that this "public benefit test" would become politicised and Alan Johnson’s intervention – during his bid to become Labour’s deputy leader – only confirms those fears. A Telegraph leader notes that "independent schools already fork out more in free and subsidised places than they gain by their tax-exempt status" and save taxpayers £2.2bn by taking more than 500,000 children off the registers of state schools.
The Conservative leadership declined to defend Catholic adoption agencies from the Government’s tentacles but this new threat to the freedom of another stream of independent organisations must be resisted. It is all part of a larger trend of uninvited government interference in once private and voluntary spheres of activity. According to The Telegraph David Willetts is also interested in tempting private schools to help the state sector but only on a voluntary basis.
In an interview of his own – with The Times – David Willetts suggests that poorer pupils may deserve a larger share of the government’s education budget. Last March David Cameron launched a Charter for Inner City Schools that floated the possibility of higher pay for inner city teachers to aid recruitment and retention.
>> On this morning’s interviews blog you can read David Willetts’ answers to ten of the questions conservativeHome readers posed earlier this week.