HMC response to Labour Party manifesto

In response to the publication of the 2019 Labour Party manifesto, Mike Buchanan, HMC Executive Director, said:

“Independent schools already contribute significantly to local and national economies, including paying their taxes. Any further tax is putting politics before pupils and will have serious unforeseen consequences. It will hurt hard-working parents, drive up class sizes and pile further pressure on state school budgets. We are particularly worried about the effects on vulnerable children.

“Independent research shows VAT on school fees will cost the taxpayer £416million by the end of the fifth year and will continue to drain the education budget.

“State-funded schools already struggling with existing demands would be forced to absorb more than a hundred thousand children from independent schools whose parents could no longer afford to pay for their child’s education. This is may include many of the 85,000 pupils at independent schools with special needs whose parents already struggle to pay for specialised care and support.

“Any future government should think very carefully about attacking one of the UK’s great national assets and exports, admired around the world. Instead we would ask politicians to work with us to ensure every child has a great education. All leading independent schools have collaborative projects with state schools and their communities and stand ready to discuss offering up to ten thousand free places every year if the government pays only the normal cost of a state education.”


  1. An ISC/HMC poll conducted in September by YouGov found:
  • Two thirds (68%) of the public think parents should be able to pay for their children’s education if they can afford it. Over half (56%) of Labour voters agree.
  • Nearly half (49%) of respondents support a Government policy to help pay for children from lower income backgrounds to attend independent schools. 46% of Labour voters support this policy.
  • More people (41%) distrust government and local councils to run schools effectively than trust them (35%).
  • Only one in ten voters would be more likely to support a political party that pledged to abolish independent schools, compared to one in five who said they would be less likely to do so.
  • The survey also placed abolishing independent schools at the bottom of a list of six possible approaches to education that the Government could prioritise to improve social mobility.

(Source: ComRes poll of 2,016 adults between September 6 and 8, 2019).

      2. An independent analysis by consultants Baines Cutler found that putting VAT on school fees would force about 20% of independent pupils into the state sector – about 135,000 children - and would cost the taxpayer at least £416 million in the fifth year after independent schools claim back VAT on their costs and pupil displacement is taken into account.

Baines Cutler report here:

3. An independent analysis by the Oxford Economics organisation has found that the existence of the independent sector saves the taxpayer £3.5billion each year by providing places for pupils who could otherwise be expected to take up a place in the state-funded sector. In addition, the sector pays up to £4 billion in taxes.

Oxford Economics report here:

Addressing some common myths:

Myth: All independent schools are large old-fashioned boarding schools.

Fact: 87% of pupils at ISC schools are day pupils. Half of ISC schools have fewer than 300 pupils. 15% of pupils at ISC schools have special needs and disabilities.

Myth: Independent schools are full of children from rich families.

Fact: Last year alone, one in 13 pupils in ISC schools was on a means-tested bursary, with schools providing more than £420 million in means-tested free assistance, and many families make sacrifices to afford fees.

Myth: Independent schools don’t contribute to the country.

Fact: Independent schools save the taxpayer £3.5 billion each year through the education of children and young people outside the state sector, as well as paying £4.1 million in taxes. They contribute in the region of £13.7 billion to the economy, and work in a range of partnerships with state schools.

HMC is a non-politically affiliated association and union.