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Headmaster’s Blog – To give to charity or not?

September 26, 2013

I was struck today by two contrasting headlines in the National Press regarding independent schools and their charitable status. The first, which I heartily endorse, was this:areidlowres34

It is a Truth, sadly not universally known or probably accepted, that Independent Schools do an enormous amount of fantastic work for charities both at home and overseas.” A blog from Mark Eagers, Headmaster at Box Hill School, posted on the ISC website.

The other, which gave me much cause for concern, was this:

The taxpayer shouldn’t have to foot the bill for these so-called charities“: A comment from Archie Bland in The Independent.

Whilst I accept that it’s too simplistic to equate charitable giving within independent schools with their charitable status, I do want to say emphatically that all the independent schools I have ever been a part of have gone to extreme lengths to raise money for charity and have also gone out of their way to make their facilities (amongst much else) available to the local community, usually free of charge. In one such school, Dean Close, I was ‘arrested’ for the day by the police and had to be ‘bailed’ from the Town Hall in Cheltenham with a significant sum of money raised during the day by the parents, pupils and staff of the school. (I’m not sure how keen the pupils were to release me, however!)

Here at Ballard we are constantly raising awareness about local, national and international charitable causes. Just this weekend, for example, one of our pupils cycled around the Isle of Wight to raise money for the British Heart Foundation whilst a staff member was on a walk for an animal rescue charity. Last year we raised significant sums for an orphanage in Uganda, a hospital in Kenya, for Water Aid, for Help for Heroes, for Oakhaven Hospice in Lymington and for the Piam Brown children’s cancer ward in Southampton.

I know that many schools, both in the maintained and independent sectors, go on quietly raising huge sums for charities throughout the year and at the same time inspire their young people to get interested in the ‘world outside’. Setting this aside, I would take issue with Mr Bland’s assertion that the tax payer is ‘footing the bill’ for independent schools which, like ours, are educational charities. Not only do parents make huge sacrifices to send their children to schools like ours but, in so doing, they save the taxpayer money by not having their children in maintained schools which, incidentally their taxes pay for anyway! Moreover, schools like ours provide places (or partially funded places) for children on bursaries and scholarships and make their facilities freely available to the local community. At Ballard we have sports’ groups, music groups and drama groups (to name but a few) who use our facilities regularly without cost to themselves. Other hidden ‘extras’ where charitable giving is concerned is our enabling students to gain teaching experience in our setting (even if they are then going to work in the maintained sector).

So, my contention is that independent schools like Ballard are certainly educational charities and are also very charitable in the way they encourage wider giving and provide ‘charitable services’!

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