Labour clarifies tax proposals for SEND schools
Aspects of the Labour Party’s plan to levy VAT on private school fees and make independent schools fully liable for business rates, are being reassessed, The Mail Online has reported.
Earlier this year, shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson indicated that the policy might not apply to special education centres, telling MPs: “We do not anticipate that the proposals would cover specialist provision.”
Two heads of two independent special needs schools write to Phillipson asking for clarity and received a letter from a member of her team saying that he “understood” the sector would be exempt.
The Independent Schools Council (ISC) warned that tens of thousands of pupils at schools offering specialist teaching, but not classified as special needs schools, may not be covered by this exemption.
Julie Robinson, chief executive of the ISC, said: “We are encouraged to see Labour considering the impact the plans could have on special needs children, but we are left with more questions than answers. The exemptions they have hinted at would still leave tens of thousands of parents in the dark about their eligibility. It would do nothing to mitigate the risk to schools that provide specialist support without the designation of a special school.”
Jonathan Hetherington, head of not-for-profit More House School in Surrey, which supports children with dyslexia and other speech, was one of those who wrote to Phillipson.
Hetherington said: “We are the largest SEND school in the country and the majority of our income comes from local authorities. Lots of parents who send their children to our school take out second mortgages to pay fees. They don’t see it as a luxury, they see it as an essential. If specialist schools are not fully exempt from these plans, there is a real risk it disadvantages the most vulnerable in our society.’
A Labour spokesman said: “Our policy of removing VAT exemptions on private schools will not apply for children with a special educational need where their school place is allocated on the basis of an Education and Health Care Plan.”