Labour leader pledges to remove charitable status from independent schools

Sir Keir Starmer wants to raise funds that could be spent on the state sector

Sir Keir Starmer (Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)
Sir Keir Starmer (Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to remove charitable status from independent schools in order to raise £1.7bn a year to spend on their state counterparts.

In an interview with the Sunday Mirror newspaper, the Labour Party leader revealed that a government under his stewardship would abolish charitable status for private schools to raise additional funds for the state sector.

Removing charitable status from fee-paying independent schools would raise an estimated £1.6bn in VAT on fees plus about £100m in business rates each year.

Starmer said: “Labour wants every parent to be able to send their child to a great state school. But improving them to benefit everyone costs money. That’s why we can’t justify continued charitable status for private schools.”

Starmer’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, also promised to remove charitable status from private schools in his Labour Party manifesto two years ago, although those plans also included measures to redistribute assets and properties owned by private schools to the state-owned sector.

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, which represents about 1,300 fee-paying schools, said the effects of removing charitable status from private schools would “penalise parents, be a tax on learning and ultimately not raise the money claimed”.

She said: “It would make independent school education an unaffordable choice for many families, forcing the closure of smaller schools and resulting in more pupils needing state school places – swelling class sizes and piling pressure on already-stretched budgets.

“We know from research that adding VAT on school fees would cost any government at least £416m in its fifth year and will not provide the money to support spending pledges.

“There is a clear contradiction in a policy that aims to raise revenue from independent schools and reduce demand for them at the same time.”

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