Education unions have taken aim at Labour’s planned tax raid on private schools, warning it could put teachers out of work.
In highly unusual comments from groups that traditionally lean to the Left, union leaders said Sir Keir Starmer‘s proposals could cost their members’ jobs, and have called on the party to reveal the details of the plans.
Labour has vowed to charge independent schools VAT and scrap their 80 per cent relief on business rates.
The party claims the move will bring in £1.7 billion, which it has pledged to use to recruit 6,500 teachers for state schools and to fund mental health support in every school.
But heads believe the plan would actually cost the taxpayer £400 million a year, in part due to the extra cost of having to educate the displaced pupils in the state sector who can no longer afford the likely hike in fees – while some schools would be forced to close.
The Oundle School, Northamptonshire. Union leaders said that Labour’s plans to charge VAT on private school fees and scrap their business rate relief could cost their members jobs
Last night Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), urged Labour to explain its workings and flesh out the details of the policy.
He told the Mail: ‘It’s very easy to caricature all independent schools as being the very big, well known, easy to name places. But the reality is the majority of independent schools are actually quite small.
‘The idea that they are awash with cash we simply think is not the case… and our instinct is some of those schools will close.’
He added: ‘Partly this is about us wanting to protect our members because if those schools close it would mean that those teachers suddenly find themselves without jobs.
‘But it’s also the case that if there are some closures of some schools and those young people then move into the state sector, is there the capacity and funding in the state sector?’
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union expressed concerns that Labour’s policy could see schools close and teachers leave the profession
Patrick Roach, the general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: ‘There is a debate to be had about a fairer tax system and we think that’s right. But we also think it’s important that no school is forced to close and that we don’t want to see more teachers leaving the profession at a time when we’ve already got a shortage.’
Sources told The Sunday Telegraph that unions have raised their concerns to Labour, but that was denied by a party source, who said: ‘This is yet more scaremongering from an increasingly desperate private schools’ lobby on the wrong side of public opinion.
‘The Institute for Fiscal Studies has been crystal clear: Removing tax breaks will have a negligible impact on private school attendance. Labour will drive high and rising standards in state schools by removing these unjustified tax breaks.’
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