Associations in the independent schools sector say there is a “clear contradiction” in Labour’s policy on removing the charitable status of independent schools.
On the second day of the party’s annual conference, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said private schools would be taxed £1.7bn to fund improvements to state schools if they win the next election.
The chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), Julie Robinson, said: “Removing charitable status and putting VAT on school fees would penalise parents, be a tax on learning, and ultimately not raise the money claimed.
“It would make independent school education an unaffordable choice for many families, forcing the closure of smaller schools and resulting in more pupils needing state school places – swelling class sizes and piling pressure on already-stretched budgets.
“We know from research that adding VAT on school fees would cost any government at least £416m in its fifth year and will not provide the money to support spending pledges. There is a clear contradiction in a policy that aims to raise revenue from independent schools and reduce demand for them at the same time.”
The general secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), Dr Simon Hyde, said: “Independent schools contribute nearly £14bn to the UK economy every year, support more than 300,000 jobs and save the taxpayer another £3.5bn annually through the education of 600,000 children and young people, at no additional cost.
“Research by Baines Cutler has shown that removing the charitable status of independent schools would not yield the amounts suggested but would instead end up costing the taxpayer significant sums of money, as schools would be eligible for VAT recovery. Schools currently pay PAYE, business rates and VAT and pay significant sums in tax every year.”
Robinson encouraged all independent schools to “work together in partnership” with state schools to benefit all pupils.
Hyde said that all HMC schools are involved in partnerships with local state sector schools, bringing cultural, sporting, academic and pastoral benefits and opportunities to pupils in state schools.