Report on reform options for private schools launched ahead of debate

The report will be formally launched at a debate later today, where those for and against private education will discuss ways to make our current education system fairer

A non-party affiliated think tank has launched a report on reform options for Britain’s private schools.

Private School Policy Reform (PSPR) is holding an event later today (19 September) in Manchester, ‘Phasing Out Private Schools: An Evening of Debate’, where it will formally launch its report detailing six options for reform of the private sector.

At the event, those for and against private education will discuss ways to make our current education system fairer, including Bolton School’s girls’ division headmistress Sue Hincks, and boys’ division headmaster Philip Britton.

Hincks, who is also president of the Girls’ Schools Association, told Independent Education Today: “We are speaking at this event about the huge added value which independent schools give to the nation at large.

We are speaking at this event about the huge added value which independent schools give to the nation at large

“As heads of a school at which one in five pupils is on a bursary, we believe that we make a transformational difference in terms of social mobility to the Bolton community.

“We want people attending to be aware of the dangers of over-simplifying the debate about state school pupils and their ability to access top jobs and university places.”

Former chief master of King Edward’s School, John Claughton, will also present cases for keeping private schools.

Labour Against Private Schools, a campaign group within the Labour Party, will give an update on its political campaign.

Why has the report been made?

‘Reform Options for Britain’s Private Schools’ from PSPR is the first report that examines the practical challenges and financial implications of six routes to reform fee-paying schools, listing the pros and cons of each option.

PSPR does not recommend a particular route but calls all parties to use the report as a ‘DIY guide’ to develop policies which will make private schools more accessible to more children.

The report also calls for the government to implement a financial audit of the private school sector.

PSPR believes reform is worth taking seriously for numerous reasons, including that the original purpose of many public schools was as charities with endowments for poor children, a position many have moved away from. Also, that only 1% of all places in private schools with Independent Schools Council membership are entirely free for parents.

What does the report say?

PSPR outlines six reform options in its report:

1 – Taxation

“Taxing private school fees will reduce the demand for private schooling, while raising revenue. There are two main proposals: one is to charge VAT (at 20 per cent) on fees (as in the Labour Party 2017 manifesto); the other, with greater effect, is the 25 per cent ‘educational opportunity tax’ proposed in the House of Lords by Andrew Adonis in December 2017.”

2 – Remove charitable status

“Being a charity is financially advantageous for private schools and their parents because local business taxes are reduced by four-fifths, because schools are not taxed on their profits and their capital gains, and because donations by alumni and other individuals are income-deductible.”

3 – Contextual university admissions and job recruitment

“A policy of contextual admissions to university and/or contextual recruitment for jobs puts an obstacle in the way of privately educated students to counterbalance their advantages.”

4 – Fair Access Scheme (partial integration)

“Under the ‘Fair Access Scheme’, one third (initially) of the new intake at all private primary and secondary schools will become free, state-school places, funded by the government at the same age-appropriate rate that it funds children in all state schools. Thus, the schools will now become partly private, partly state schools.”

5 – Nationalisation (full integration)

“By phasing out private education altogether in Britain, and absorbing these pupils into the mainstream state system, this country will be able to offer all its children a fair chance in life.”

6 – Reform within mass: mass bursaries and sponsorships

“If the existing private schools were to increase their endowment funds sufficiently, these could largely be devoted to providing means-tested bursaries, open to all to apply, enough to populate at least a third of places with children from low to middle income, non-affluent families.”

Read the full report online.

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