Labour's new plan to strip private schools of tax breaks is "patronising nonsense" and 30 years out of date, the chairman of the Independent Schools council has said.
Barnaby Lenon, the former Head Master of Harrow, accused Ed Miliband's party of "pointing the finger" at successful private schools and advocating a "1980s view" of education.
However Tristram Hunt, Labour's shadow education secretary, accused representatives of private schools as acting like an "old-fashioned trade union" by protecting its members and pretending no change is needed.
The row broke out on Radio 4's Today Programme after Labour revealed a controversial plan to strip private schools of major tax relief unless they pass a "schools partnership standard".
Among the expected actions needed to qualify for the standard would be improved interactions with state schools, including sending specialist independent teachers into Government-funded schools.
Mr Lenon said: "I share with Dr Hunt his ambition to ensure that all pupils, whatever type of school they go to, can aspire to great things, but pointing the finger at independent schools is a 1980s view of education.
"Most independent schools are now involved in effective and two-way partnerships with state schools. and independent schools educate quite a lot of pupils from low-income homes.
"Last year Oxford University found that a third of its poorest students had been to independent schools. He needs to be careful not to set up a false argument."
He added: "Does Dr Hunt think that when Mr Chips from the independent schools drifts in to teach a bit of History at the local state school because his head has told him to under instruction from Dr Hunt that this is going to transform the relationship between state and private school? I think it's patronising nonsense."
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