Proposals to impose further stealth tax on independent school parents would only harm state schools says HMC Vice Chair

8 December 2017
Posted by HMC Press Office

HMC school Heads take action every day to help less well-off pupils. Lord Adonis’s proposal for a huge tax on independent school parents would cause them harm.

Lord Adonis has called for a new, additional 25% tax to be levied on the fees charged by independent schools in England.  This would not bring the benefits that he claims.

In fact, it would place a further financial burden on state schools as thousands of independently-educated children would be forced out of their existing schools by huge fee increases. Those most hit would be children from lower income families whose places are funded by bursaries which schools would no longer be able to afford.

Lord Adonis asserts that his proposal would raise around £2.5 billion. He provides no basis for this assertion and in fact it will end up costing state schools dearly.

A new tax on parents who already pay school fees would result in many more simply choosing to let the state pay for their children’s education  instead. Thus, the most likely effect would be a net loss to the Treasury as large numbers of children currently educated independently seek places in state schools at a cost of billions of pounds.

This would come at a time when funds are desperately needed in state schools to ease the burden on existing teachers, find new entrants to the profession and continue to improve the quality of teaching and learning, especially for children in struggling schools in deprived areas.

With a probable increase in class sizes, Lord Adonis has, at a stroke, added to the existing workload of state school teachers and the challenges of underfunded state schools.

In addition, the obvious loss of students would mean that Independent schools would no longer be able to afford the current high levels of means-tested fee assistance for less well-off families. This is currently well in excess of £1 million a day and it would not possible on anything like the existing scale.

Mike Buchanan, Vice Chair of HMC and Head of Ashford School said:

“Independent schools work quietly every day to help many thousands pupils from less well-off families, through free places, sharing teachers and facilities and national campaigns to improve education for all pupils.

 “This long term approach compares favourably with these ill thought-through proposals designed, it seems, to catch attention.

 “A huge, further tax on parents who already save the Government money by not taking up state school places is not the way to help social mobility. It will have the opposite effect.

 “It is absurd to suggest the state should spend millions every year educating pupils migrating from independent schools when it needs that money to pay for more teachers to support existing pupils, particularly in deprived areas.

 “Much better that Lord Adonis speaks to us about the many ways in which we have offered to help state funded pupils further - including offering up to 10,000 free places in our schools.”