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A LABOUR government would treat private schools like “any other business” by scrapping their charitable status and charging VAT on term fees, according to a leaked document published by the Daily Telegraph.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell reacted to the story by telling reporters today that Labour is committed to addressing inequality and that this would include reforming fee-paying schools while establishing a “fully comprehensive education system.”
The plan was welcomed by the group Labour Against Private Schools, which said that proposals should go further by shutting down fee-paying institutions altogether.
The group’s co-ordinator Robert Poole said: “Making private schools pay more tax is a great start but it’s too easily reversible by another government and it will make private schools even more elite. We need to keep pushing for full abolition.”
Private school heads have accused Labour of seeking to destroy private education, warning such moves would “rip apart the fabric of education” in Britain.
They argue that their schools play a “vital role” and any move to undermine them and change their charitable status would set a “dangerous precedent with wide-ranging implications.”
Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference executive director Mike Buchanan claimed that the reforms would “inevitably damage state schools” due to more private school children having to enrol in state education.
Under current rules, private schools get tax breaks via their charitable status, while council-run state schools are liable for business rates that are effectively paid for by the taxpayer.
Academies — which are not under local council control — have charitable status and are therefore eligible for discounted rates, with the rest paid for out of their state funding.
Proposals to introduce VAT on school fees and axe discounted business rates could bring in £1.64 billion a year, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Mr McDonnell said that the money would help pay for an NHS-like education system that would be “free at the point of need, from the cradle to the grave.
“I think this will be one of the defining issues a Jeremy Corbyn government will be remembered for,” he added.
Labour proposed in its 2017 manifesto that it would introduce free school meals for all primary students, funded by removing the VAT exemption from private school fees.
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