The Struthers Memorial Church company 2009 Report and Accounts were logged with the Scottish Charity regulator in October 2010. This gave us the chance to look at the activity of the SMC charitable company in 2009 the period this report covered.

There are a number of notable and interesting things in this report which formed the basis of a more general article published soon after. At this point we wanted to bring out from this set of accounts what we regard as one of the more remarkable facts which they reveal. By this, of course, we mean this will be remarkable to anyone not involved in SMC. We assume that those then attending knew this information already. They are the ones who are directly funding all the activity we are talking about so we do not expect anyone currently inside SMC to be in any way surprised by what was in these accounts.

The SMC charitable company has 6 directors and 4 main cost centres

These 4 cost centres are :

The 11 churches

The book and food-shops

The Cedars School of Excellence

Church Conferences

If we look at the costs for each cost centre and the income from each in the period covered by this report and accounts we can see which of these are making money and which are costing money. This has to balance as one of the most important responsibilities of charity directors is to ensure a charity does not (in the long term) spend more than it raises or has in reserves. Quite rightly.

For ease of understanding we have put the relevant figures from page 8 and page 11 of the accounts in a table: 

 During 2009




 The 11 churches

 £ 583,812

 £ 373,791

 £ 210,019

 The book and food-shops

 £ 387,387

 £ 377,561

 £ 9,826

 The Cedars School of Excellence

 £ 364,375

 £ 522,518


 Church conferences

 £ 114,949

 £ 113,769

 £ 1,180

 Other relatively small income sources exist such as from investments (£6,079) and one legacy (£21,468)

 Declared Total

 £1 478,070

 £1 390,264

 £ 87,806 operating profit


The only place that the school's quite large income shortfall (or, if you prefer, overspend) can be made up from is by taking money from what has been donated to the 11 churches by members. This total donation income is given as £583,812. The school deficit is £158,143. So to cover the shortfall it appears just over 27% of all 2009 donations to the church were handed over to the school.

In other words – if you take all the donations (and recovered tax) given by every member in every Struthers branch across the UK during 2009 - for every £100 given to Struthers Memorial Church £27 went to subsidise the Greenock fee paying school.

Or looking at this from another angle - if the school was full 120 children were on the school roll in 2009. To ensure each child on the school roll got a private education:

the parents paid (an average of)     £3036 per child    (120 x 3036.46 = 364375)

the church members paid               £1318 per child    (120 x 1317.86 = 158143)


This must be one of the most astonishing examples of generous giving and the most powerful demonstration of belief in the value of private education we have ever come across.


Many of those giving to Struthers Memorial Church are parents with children in state schools whose sons and daughters sit in classes which are probably often close to the maximum legal 33 pupils to 1 teacher ratio and whose schools may be facing budget cuts affecting things like school trips and computer equipment. It is genuinely amazing that people in that position have given so generously and consistently to keep 120 children of parents who are sufficiently wealthy to privately educate their children in classes with ratios (based on the staff salaries figure in the accounts) of around 12 pupils to 1 teacher. This generosity also enables the school to run extra activities and outings they could otherwise not afford.

This support also let the school, with a publicity flourish in the Daily Record, proudly buy each of the pupils an i-pad – though possibly not in the year covered by these accounts.

This is a generosity of a kind that is seldom encountered, It is the sacrificial giving of the less well off to provide so much for those some would already regard as privileged. That people have done this knowingly and with such kind-hearted willingness is almost difficult to believe yet there it is in the figures published by the church.

Some people would find it hard to live up to this example. Some would be inclined to give to Christian work but keep the 27% which is going to education back for their own children's education. Some with families would be inclined to give this donation to their own children's local state school. They would argue that this would be helping not only their own children but provide even more, and less advantaged, children with the possibility of outings and new school equipment. Some might also be inclined to say they would rather give to the work of the gospel in their own home towns rather than to the education of a few well off kids in the west of Scotland.

But for Struthers members to work so hard, as so many do, to provide the best for their own family, and then to willingly and freely give so much money directly to the education of other people's children is amazing to those of us who did not know this was going on.

Some people would have found it hard to be that selfless. They might have taken the view that if the school was choosing to provide such high staffing levels, new computer equipment and activities which cost £150,000 more than they were bringing in through fees paid by parents there are 2 things that could happen.

1       the school could raise the fees charged to the parents of the 120 children directly benefiting.

2       the school could have reduced their staffing and activities to a level they could afford based on the fees income they were getting.

Instead the church members have made both of these hard decisions unnecessary by their astonishing generosity to both the school's governors and the school's parents – particularly the parents of the non Struthers children who financially gain the most as, unlike most of the Struthers parents, they pay only fees. They make no additional donation into church funds but still benefit from the church subsidy.

As we say – it is a kind of generosity rarely encountered and hard to understand.

Yet – there it is in front of us.


UPDATE 9 February 2011

We are grateful to the person who has pointed out to us that there is an article in this week’s Times Education Supplement celebrating the i-pads project in the church school (in an article which sadly fails to mention either the church or its members' generosity).

In reading that, it appears we have made an over-optimistic assumption about the meaning of one phrase in the report and accounts.       

“Cedars school continues to perform very well with a virtually full school roll” 

We read this as “virtually full” meaning nearly at the capacity of 120, whereas it seems from the article the number of pupils is 105.

Only wanting to be as accurate as it is possible to be from public sources - we are happy to bring in this new information and re calculate the figures presented above on that basis - as follows:

Or looking at this from another angle - if the school had 105 children on the school roll in 2009. To ensure each child on the school roll got a private education:

the parents paid (an average of)     £3470 per child     (105 x 3470.24 = £364,375 = fees income)

the church members paid               £1506 per child      (105 x 1506.12 = £158,143 = subsidy) 



  • There is a statement in the report and accounts that “a small number of donations” are given to help pay part of the school fees for some less well off families. There are no figures given for how much this is, no figures for how many children benefit and no indication of how it is requested and awarded. We have assumed any such money from the church is already included in the school fees income figure. If that is a correct assumption it would increase the percentage of church donations ending up going to the school to a figure above 27%.

  • The 2009 Report and Accounts give no indication that there are any plans to change this arrangement where the church subsidises the school in future years. In fact the only comment about the financial arrangements of the Cedars school was made on page 4:   “the school operated well within its financial guidelines”

  • If anyone wants a copy of the church report and accounts they can request it from the Struthers Memorial Church office. All charities have a legal obligation to provide this to any member of the public on request.

  • Since all the activities of the various cost centres in SMC are all run by the same charity all undesignated donations can be used for any purpose. If people wanted their donations to be used to support any particular part of the work, such as missionaries or building funds, they can indicate that when the money is given. The charity can only accept the donation if they can guarantee this request will be honoured. If  there is no designation it is quite legal for the money to be used in any way the charity directors choose.

  • If anyone thinks this article contains any errors of fact please let us know and we will be happy to consider any relevant information brought to our attention.  

  • This article contains only the opinions and understanding of the writers based on our reading of the Struthers Memorial Church Report and Accounts and we do not in any respect claim our analysis to be correct or official. We have given our opinions and quoted the figures from the 2009 Report and Accounts from which we have derived those opinions. The legal and moral responsibility for providing actual figures to the membership and the public for all the items discussed in this article lies fully and only with the Directors of Struthers Memorial Church.