HMC Chief Executive’s response to Daily Telegraph article on Labour’s plans for punitive taxation

Following the Daily Telegraph's front page story on Labour and VAT on school fees on September 13, HMC Executive Director Mike Buchanan said:

“Labour’s proposed £1.6 billion tax raid on independent schools is not only a fundamental attack on parental choice, but it is based on dodgy maths and will end up damaging state schools.

“All parents want what is best for their child and families – including those on the Labour front bench - and have the right to choose independent education if they are able to afford it. Often, both parents work extra hard and save money elsewhere. Far from being the mythical uber rich, a third of them get help with fees. A price hike is likely to drive them and many others into the state system.

“This punitive measure could cost the tax-payer nearly £10,000 for every extra child in the state sector every year and an additional one-off £10,000 per child, according to an independent analysis.  The Government’s initial tax windfall would soon be swallowed up, and within five years would turn into a deficit of £416 million. State schools will end up picking up the pieces with less money, bigger class sizes and a dwindling pool of teachers.

“These moves will damage families and children that can least afford it, including the thousands of children in independent school and nurseries who have Special Educational Needs and/or who receive assistance with fees.

“Labour’s proposal to end the statutory business rates relief which is made available to all charities is un-costed and similarly damaging as shown by the substantial evidence presented in Scotland by the charity regulator and others.

“It is frustrating to see yet another ill-thought-through political attack on families who are already saving the state thousands of pounds each a year and ask for no rebate on their taxes. In some cases, part of the fees paid by these parents will already be used to fund their schools’ charitable activities and additional support to state schools.

“But Labour’s egregious proposals do not end there, as they have not ruled out the eventual abolition of the independent sector. Such a move would tear apart the fabric of education in this country.

“Independent schools have played a vital role in the education system for generations and they are recognised around the world as beacons of excellence. We want to see all pupils getting the same opportunities by pushing up standards everywhere, not by destroying some of the best.

"Any attempt to abolish these schools will not only prove disruptive, divisive and difficult, but ultimately would harm rather than help state-funded schools.

“Independent schools are already spending hundreds of millions a year on life-changing free or heavily discounted places for children from under-privileged backgrounds, including children who are looked after.

“Nearly a third of students from disadvantaged backgrounds at Oxford University, for example, come via independent schools and our sponsored academies are doing ground-breaking work getting pupils into other top universities.

“In this period of uncertainty, it would be a huge shame if this ideological issue became a distraction from the far bigger challenges facing education today. The focus should be on pupils, not politics."