VAT on school fees will cost, not save, the state money, says GSA president

Speaking at the GSA's annual conference, Sue Hincks spoke of the current political debate regarding private schools

The president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) has said introducing VAT on school fees will not save money and will increase the burden on the taxpayer.

Sue Hincks, who is also headmistress of Bolton School girls’ division, addressed other headteachers today at the GSA’s annual conference, taking place this year in Bristol.

She demonstrated the independent sector’s approach to education as giving choice to parents who want their children to have a broader curriculum, spreading values of respect internationally, increasing bursary provision and working with state schools.

She said: “It defies belief that a major political party would put at risk all of this good work by charging VAT on school fees, with a dubious claim that this would raise significant funds for other purposes.

“In fact, introducing VAT on school fees will cost, not save, the state money, and increase the burden on the taxpayer.

“Such a policy would result in the closure of many independent schools, an even higher demand for state school places, and the disappearance of so much excellent inter-sector work that would become unaffordable.”

Such a policy would result in the closure of many independent schools, an even higher demand for state school places

She also highlighted the importance of teaching young people to be discerning.

“We have to formalise the ability to ask purposeful questions which lead to greater understanding and more perspective,” said Hincks.

She added: “We must enable young people to understand how they can be manipulated, not by the rhetoric of speeches or written passages — which they study already in their English language lessons — but by the medium of algorithms and automated scripts.

“We need to teach them that clickbots, social bots and vote bots are designed to influence public opinion, polarising views, silencing opposition, denigrating or extolling individuals, parties and brand according to intent.

“They take away nuance, undermine discernment and encourage the adoption of unreasoned opinions and attitudes.”

The GSA conference takes place from 18-19 November, with a host of sessions discussing topics such as fake news and sustainability, as well as the announcement of the GSA Woman of the Year.