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A recent decision on the application of public benefit under the Charities Act 2006 sidestepped the political debate surrounding the charitable status of independent fee-charging schools. The broader political context nevertheless underscores the legislative reforms, and this article questions whether the new statutory public benefit requirement has utility as a welfare policy tool in the field of education. It examines the public benefit requirement in charity law against the backdrop of government policy towards education and the broader political agenda for a mixed economy of welfare provision, and argues that the difficulties Labour faced in developing its education policies were replicated in the application of the post-Act public benefit requirement to fee-charging schools. As a result, achieving broader policy goals for widening educational opportunity through public benefit was almost impossible given the regulatory framework and the principles upon which charity law is founded.