Tories criticise Labour’s school fees policy in Commons; ELT exception confirmed

  • 22nd February 2024

A debate yesterday in the House of Commons drew criticism from Conservative members frustrated at Labour’s tax plans for independent school fees, The Pie News has reported.

The Conservative MP for Northampton South, Andrew Lewer, said: “Why is it that the sector often gets bad press, despite its contribution to society both economically and educationally? For many people, when they hear the terms independent school or private school, they immediately associate them with elitism, isolation and privilege. Nothing could be further from the truth. Independent schools today are modern, diverse and inclusive places that often provide education and specialist provision where the state sector does not go. Furthermore, independent schools are more connected to society now than ever before, working with the state sector in partnerships and widening access through bursaries.”

Dr Neil Hudson, Conservative MP for Penrith and The Border, said: “The short-sighted Labour policy on VAT on independent schools will compromise these schools, force some parents to take their children out of them, and ultimately put more pressure on our local state schools.”

Much of the debate focused on the positive role of the independent sector in providing for special educational needs youngsters. Lewer later said in the debate: “The point about special educational needs that was made by several colleagues is particularly potent, and I shall certainly try to take that up in my ongoing work as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on independent education.”

The Labour Party has also confirmed that English language training schools won’t have VAT imposed on them.

Replying to a letter from English UK, the UK association of English language centres, Labour stated: “English Language Schools, if not registered as independent schools with the Department of Education (sic), would not be affected.”

English UK’s chief executive Jodie Gray responded: “This is great news for the sector and proves how crucial it is that members are involved in our campaigning work.”

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