• Thursday, June 20, 2024

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Taxing private schools will overwhelm grammar schools: Tories

Trade minister Greg Hands has described the move as ‘vindictive’ and will impact the independent schools and those run by the state

(Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

By: Shajil Kumar

Conservative party leaders claim that the Labour party’s plan to charge VAT on private schools is expected to trigger an exodus due to fee hikes and overwhelm grammar schools.

During a visit to a school in Chelsea and Fulham constituency, trade minister Greg Hands described the move as ‘vindictive’. “I don’t think it’s going to raise the money that Labour thinks it’s going to raise.”

The Labour party had claimed this would help raise £1.7 billion and it will be used to improve state schools.

He said the move will impact the independent schools and those run by the state, The Telegraph reports.

“I think a lot of parents will be priced out of the independent sector and move into the state sector, which round here is already heavily oversubscribed,” Hands said.

Conservative leader Andrew Lewer also concurred with this view. He said it would impact children with special needs, armed forces families, and grammar schools.

Legal challenge

Reform UK leader Richard Tice is reportedly assembling a team of lawyers to fight the Labour party’s proposal.

He said education is a charitable endeavour and should get business rates relief. Hence, the Labour party’s move was highly discriminatory.

Tice said he would use “every legal avenue” to block Labour’s plans if Sir Keir enters Downing Street in July.

The Independent Schools Council, which represents more than 1,300 schools in the UK, is also understood to be taking legal advice and considering whether to launch a challenge of its own.

According to the latest figures, 64 of England’s 163 grammar schools are at or over capacity – they are teaching more children than they officially have spaces for.

However, the proportion of grammars that are 95 per cent or higher capacity goes up to 74 per cent of the sector.

School closure

Independent schools leaders have already said many smaller schools were on a financial “knife edge” and could be forced to close if Labour presses ahead with its pledge.

Last week, Alton School in Hampshire, which caters for 370 pupils, has decided to close this summer.

The school stated on its website that “adverse political and economic factors” have drained pupil numbers leaving it “unviable” to run.

Parents have blamed the threat of the policy for the removal of children.

Labour firm

Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer has said his government would get on with implementing the policy “straight away”, if elected.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has said private schools must make cuts in order to cope with the tax increase.

A Labour Party spokesman claimed that independent schools have raised fees above inflation for well over a decade and do not have to pass the proposed tax onto parents.

“Labour will invest in delivering a brilliant state education for children in every state school by recruiting over 6,500 new teachers, funded by ending tax breaks for private schools.”

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