In widely, if wearily anticipated news, the Charity Commission has announced its intention to interfere in the running of this country's so-called "independent" schools.
The Charity Commission is publishing guidance which will require charities to demonstrate that they are not "exclusive clubs" ... "There is a two-way relationship between charities and society - registered charities enjoy considerable benefits in terms of their reputation and the tax advantages that go with their status," said the Charity Commission's chairman, Suzi Leather.Note to Ms Leather: they aren't clubs, they're schools. And if you have a problem with exclusivity, why not pick on - say - guide dogs for the blind? What have they ever done for the sighted majority?
As to reputation, I doubt that Eton or Westminster would suffer much damage on that front from anything that Ms Leather and her band of class warriors could possibly say or do.
That goes for the tax breaks too, actually. The figure of £100m in lost reliefs would hardly touch the sides of an industry with an annual turnover of over £6bn. (If spread evenly across all schools, the loss could be compensated for by a 1.6% increase in fees.)
So the Commission may talk loudly, but it carries only a tiny, withered little stick.
I doubt very much whether those involved have any idea what it is they're attacking either: quite simply, the best schools in the world.
An OECD survey called the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) from 2006 surveyed 15-year-old schoolchildren across 57 countries and awarded points for their skills in reading, maths and science. While Britain's state schools scored around the 500-point average in the three areas, our independent sector, with scores of 576, 570 and 598 respectively (data), beat the top country in each category: Korea in reading (556), Taiwan in maths (549) and Finland in science (563) (tables).
In fact, I'd like to see our private schools call the Charity Commission's bluff. Renounce their charitable status. It's simply not worth the candle.
Who knows - perhaps a proliferation of deregulated private schools would result, which over time would drag the average standard of British education back up again - rather than levelling it down.