What is a children's charity - can you spot the charity beneficiaries in this picture?


I'm currently working on a project producing statistics on the funding of children's charities in the UK. The hardest part is deciding which charities to include as a children's charity. This famous picture taken in 1938 outside Lord's Cricket Ground illustrates the problem.

Were it taken today, 2 of the 5 boys in the picture would rely entirely on a charity - The Keepers and Governors of the Free Grammar School of John Lyon to provide their education. Registered charity number 310033. Or Harrow School as it is better known, which became a registered charity in 1966.

Harrow is not what most people think of when they think of charity, but I'm not trying to bring up the "public benefit" discussion about whether independent schools are charitable or not. Because it turns out that all of the boys in the photo would now be charity beneficiaries.

The other three boys attended a local Church of England school close to Lord's - (St Paul’s Bentinck). This is (and was in 1938) funded by the State. But the school is administered by The London Diosescan School Board, registered charity number 313000. It became a charity just a year after Harrow, in 1967.

Even non-church schools most likely have a Parent-Teacher Association attached to them, registered as a charity. The Conservative plan for Free Schools is likely to increase the number of state schools registered as charities. And this despite the fact that there are some (ill-informed) people who believe that you shouldn't be allowed to register as a charity if you get more than 50% of your income from the state.

As of October 2009 there were 193,000 registered charities in England and Wales. This blog post by Dave Kane at the NCVO goes into more depth about how many charities there are. It turns out almost half of charities report children as a beneficiary group to the Charity Commission. So perhaps there are more children's charities than we think.

There is a great article about this photograph, with biographical details of each of the five boys - it turns out one of the Harrow boys won a scholarship - so he was getting his expensive education for free, which further complicates things.

Read the full article here - in Intelligent Life magazine from The Economist. This is a piece of old-fashioned journalism, clearly well-researched, and so good that it was reproduced in both The Guardian and The Times.

NB: This photograph is reproduced without permission. I'm assuming Jimmy Sime is dead. But image libraries never die. The picture was taken over 70 years ago, but British copyright law is mad. If you are reading this from Britain, please don't look at the photo, click through to the article and look at the licensed version instead.

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