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‘No magic wand’ to recruit more teachers as Starmer insists removing ‘tax breaks’ for private schools is ‘tough choice’

18 June 2024, 09:35 | Updated: 18 June 2024, 10:13

Sir Keir Starmer speaks to LBC
Sir Keir Starmer speaks to LBC. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour's policy to end the VAT exemption for independent schools is a "tough choice" but said there is no "magic wand" to recruit more teachers in the state sector.

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Labour has pledged to remove private schools’ exemption of paying 20% VAT if it wins the general election and hopes to raise about £1.5bn a year to increase investment into state schools.

Sir Keir has repeatedly said he respects the decision of parents to send their children to private schools, though said 6,500 more teachers are needed in state schools.

The Labour leader was taken to task over Labour's plans to remove the tax break for private schools as he spoke exclusively to LBC's Nick Ferrari.

Nick Ferrari questions Keir Starmer on how Labour will pay for teachers in schools with SEND pupils

Michelle Catterson, head of Moon Hall School in Reigate, which caters for dyslexic children, told us she thinks the policy means Labour does not care about youngsters with special needs.

Sir Keir replied: "Well, Michelle, we do care. I want every single child, whether they go to private or state school, to have the same opportunities. It really matters to me."

He said Labour's policy would provide an exemption for children who have a plan in place and cannot get the help they need in the state sector, and promised to respond to a letter the headteacher had sent him.

"There is no magic wand," Sir Keir told LBC, adding that it was a "tough choice".

Read More: 'It would be foolish to write five years worth of budgets now': Starmer refuses to rule out council tax rises under Labour

During this morning's phone-in, Sir Keir repeatedly insisted the economy was in a "difficult state", which means the party is not able to do as much as it would like should it win the election.

This includes a decision not to scrap the two-child benefit cap, which experts say could lift one million children out of poverty.

"I know how strongly Gordon Brown feels strongly about it. One of the problems in politics is before an election people promise to do a b and c and after they don't do. I want a different approach," Sir Keir told Nick.

Pressed by Nick on why the cap will not be lifted when Reform UK's Nigel Farage has pledged to do so, Sir Keir hit back and said their manifesto is not fully funded.

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