ISC officials called Labour’s education secretary “chippy”

  • 20th June 2023

Bridget Phillipson MP

Officials at The Independent Schools Council described the shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson as “very chippy” in private messages, The Guardian has reported.

A public access request to the ISC about Phillipson revealed that  officials also said she “doesn’t know diddly” and suggested she should “appreciate the great good our sector does”.

The ISC is campaigning hard to counter Labour’s plans to remove charitable status and impose VAT on private school fees, and has written to the party’s MPs with private schools in their constituencies to warn of the effect of the policy on pupils’ families.

A Labour source said: “For too long the Conservative government has failed abjectly to be the kind of determined advocate that state school-educated children and their families badly need to break down barriers to opportunity in this country.”

Before a media appearance with Phillipson, one official emailed: “I think she has no independent schools in her constituency so she doesn’t have the real experience you have. She is bound to peddle the Labour lines off-pat.”

A further email said: “Essentially, her line is that independent schools are for the rich and that they are flourishing at the expense of state schools. It’s an us vs them thing (which I think is covered by the class war answer below). She gets very chippy when people don’t agree with her or push back at her, so it is very easy to make her sound unreasonable by keeping your cool.”

In March, an official wrote: “I do wish Bridget Phillipson would take a moment to appreciate the great good our sector does. It’s so disappointing that Labour doesn’t grasp it. Saddening.”

An ISC spokesperson said: “Schools are engaging with their local MPs over a policy that they are extremely worried will impede their charitable work. They are perfectly entitled to do so under Charity Commission rules, and the threat to silence independent schools’ right to object to a tax that would do very real harm to them and their local communities is both empty and cynical.

“ISC has been consistently clear that it is opposed to the Labour party’s stated policy on independent schools, not the Labour party itself. Indeed, ISC would welcome the opportunity to work with the Labour Party to build on the good work already being done in the sector, instead of Labour penalising parents with a tax on their choice of school.”

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