Keir Starmer vows to scrap charitable status for private schools to fund catch-up programme

28 November 2022, 09:35

Keir Starmer predecessor Jeremy Corbyn adopted the same policy
Keir Starmer predecessor Jeremy Corbyn adopted the same policy. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The Labour Party has said private schools would no longer be granted charitable status under a Keir Starmer government, a move which Tories say would make them the preserve of "rich foreigners".

The status currently means private schools do not have to charge VAT of 20 per cent on fees.

Independent schools with charitable status are expected to pay back the VAT cut by offering bursaries to the less privileged or by sharing their facilities with state schools.

Under the move, around 90,000 pupils could be forced to switch to state school as parents would be priced out of paying for private school.

Some private schools currently charging £44,000 a year would hike their fees to nearly £53,000 a year without charitable status.

The proposed policy has been meet with criticism from Tories, including chancellor Jeremy Hunt who branded it "ideological" in his Autumn statement.

Sir John Redwood, former head of Margaret Thatcher's policy unit, told the Daily Mail: "They are clearly trying to price people out of sending their children to private schools from the UK – it will become rich foreigners only.

"And it will therefore greatly increase the burden of public spending because all those people will need full-price state places free, instead of paying for the private-sector places themselves.

"It's a typical, vengeful tax to stop people getting on in the world which ends up costing all of us a lot more money and making many more people miserable."

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Meanwhile, Independent Schools Council chief executive Julie Robinson previously criticised the move, saying: “Ultimately, the policy would threaten the survival of the smallest independent schools, which operate on tight margins and without large endowments.”

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faced similar criticism for promising to adopt the same policy. Corbyn's shadow chancellor John McDonnell later backed a campaign to abolish private schools all together.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backed the same policy
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backed the same policy. Picture: Getty

A Labour spokesman said: "Labour is determined that all children, irrespective of their family income, have the chance to achieve their potential through high quality education.

"That's why the next Labour government will remove charitable status from private schools to fund our national excellence programme for all schools.

"We'll recruit thousands of new teachers, turn around struggling schools, and give staff the training they need to enable all children to pursue their dreams and reach their potential."

A Government spokesman said: "Independent schools have an important role to play in levelling up opportunities."

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