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Schools may lose rates relief
 This is, pure and simple, a backwards step by the Scottish Government taken against advice and evidence from many quarters.
Rates relief rejected both in principle and in substance by today’s announcement is part and parcel of a unique public bene t test that was created unanimously by the Scottish Parliament and focussed speci cally at independent schools.
The changes schools have made since 2006 to merit that relief amount to more than £200 million alone in means-tested fee assistance to Scottish pupils, alongside very extensive facilities, resources and staff provision for
communities, public bodies, and state schools.
We will consider the proposed new arrangements, and the possible exemption of special needs and specialist schools, when they are detailed. If followed through, this proposal will weaken and narrow the widening access programme and, most importantly, it will impact on those accessing bursary assistance made possible by the rates relief.
It is dispiriting to learn that
the Government considers that independent schools and their parents alone are deserving of a targeted  vefold rates rise. The comparisons made with both state
schools and universities do not recognise that all three groups are not-for-pro t and all three have education as their core purpose.
Those who have used business rates as a proxy for their own opposition to the independent sector should take no satisfaction from this decision. There is not the slightest chance it will diminish the dedication, energy and expertise that independent schools and their staff have shown over decades, if not centuries; and there will be
no stepping back from offering choice, diversity and excellence for schools, for families and for Scotland’s young people.”
John Edward, Director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), responded strongly to the Scottish Government announcement
to accept the proposal of the Barclay Review
of Business Rates to remove mandatory non-domestic rates relief from, exclusively, independent mainstream charitable schools.
Facts &  gures
SCIS represents over 70 autonomous independent schools in Scotland, both mainstream and complex additional support needs. The schools educate 30,000 pupils, employing 3,500 teachers and the equivalent in support staff.
52 of the schools are registered charities, from a total of 24,339 registered charities in Scotland which are overseen by the Of ce of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).
More than 650 pupils receive
100% means-tested fee assistance for both day and boarding, while thousands more receive the appropriate means-tested assistance of 80% -20% of fees. Such assistance more than tripled under the OSCR public bene t test to over £30 million per annum.
In June 2014, Audit Scotland estimated that expenditure per pupil in Scotland was almost £6,000. It would take less than 3% of independently-educated children in Scotland to return to the state sector to eliminate the Barclay Review’s projected overall gain of £5 million.
  Q&A with the Scottish government
IQSM put two questions to the Edinburgh government. Here they are, with replies in full:
Is rate relief available to all We will continue to engage with or some other registered the sector as we  nalise the
SCIS Director John Edwards reaction to the
Government’s answers to ISM:
It is simply disingenuous for the government to say that fee levels and bursary provision are a matter for schools alone. Their own Business Rates reform was, we were told, to be at worst revenue neutral. Precisely the same discipline is expected in not-for-pro t independent schools – so making a 5-fold increase in rates in less than two years must have a substantial impact on the two streams open to schools – fee levels, and the amount of that fee income that is given away in means-tested bursaries. The charity test expects that bursaries are up to 100%, and need to be for up to 6 years.
Dropping a budget bombshell in the middle of that cycle and pretending that any decisions schools have to take is for them alone, is hand-washing of the worst kind. The Government has clearly decided that parents in 50 charities, out of more than 24,000, are uniquely placed to accommodate whatever rise they see  t to put in place. We have made it clear repeatedly how delicate the margins of school budgets are, and how every day parent lost will be a cost to the Scottish taxpayer, and every external boarder lost will be lost to the Scottish economy.
They have chosen to ignore that evidence, and are clearly hoping to pin the blame on the sector if the impact is that it ends up costing more than it makes – as we warned it might. We will remind them at every turn that every new cost to the taxpayer is a result of
their own decision, unusually for them, to put a divisive opinion on education ahead of pragmatism and excellence.
 charities in Scotland? If it is available to any in other sectors, upon what criteria is quali cation
detail of our proposals, subject to which we intend to bring forward primary legislation to deliver this change by 2020 – as this is a change to non-domestic rating provision, rather than to charity law.
This notice will allow time for those schools affected to plan ahead.
applicable in certain
circumstances, including where a property is occupied by a
registered charity and mainly used for charitable purposes. The key legislation is Section 4 of the Local Government (Financial Provisions etc.) (Scotland) Act 1962.
As per the recommendations of the independent Barclay report, we propose to retain relief eligibility for special schools and are giving further consideration to how we ensure that independent schools with exceptional circumstances
– such as specialist music schools – continue to be eligible.
or the relief determined?
Charity rates relief is
What does the Scottish government consider the
likely effect of their new rate-relief policy on fee-levels,
bursary provision, and overall pupil numbers at Scotland’s charitable
and bursary provision
are for the independent schools themselves.
ndependent schools?
Matters such as fee levels
Independent Schools Magazine 5

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