Charitable independent schools are once again in the spotlight as the controversy over whether they do enough to justify charitable status has re-emerged in the news today. The Department for Education's consultation (which closes on 12 December) received a proposal from the Independent Schools Council to provide 10,000 free places to pupils from lower income families -  but only if the government contributes £5,500 per pupil. 

Critics (including the Chief Inspector of Schools, according to the BBC), argue that this is inadequate and that the places should be fully funded by the independent schools. However many independent charitable schools would struggle financially under the burden of fully funding such places.

There is also a concern that the scheme would cream off the brightest pupils from the state sector, further disadvantaging state schools.

The issue was hotly debated following controversial Charity Commission guidance in 2008, culminating in a legal case in 2011 which largely found in favour of the independent schools and criticised the Charity Commission's approach. 

The result of the consultation is expected to be reported in Spring 2017 and will, no doubt, provoke fresh debate.