Harlow headmaster expresses concerns that Labour plans could see rise in independent school fees

Education / Sun 26th Nov 2023 at 05:18am

PARENTS of children at private schools could end up paying thousands of pounds more in fees due to Labour’s tax plans, a headmaster has warned.

Labour is pledging to charge private schools 20% VAT, as well as ending business rate relief, to raise about £1.7bn, if it wins the next election.

The party said it aimed to plough that money into state schools.

Terence Ayres, head of St Nicholas School in Old Harlow told the BBC, it could mean fees going up by £3,000 a year.

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23 Comments for Harlow headmaster expresses concerns that Labour plans could see rise in independent school fees:

2023-11-26 07:22:49

It’s a ridiculous idea. Private schools aren’t all Eton kids of rich bankers. Plenty of parents sacrifice huge amounts to give their children a top education. Not only will more kids leave private school and go back to government-funded schools (is there enough places to accommodate?!), bursary’s will be cancelled and free places up the spout too. It’s a typical pre-election popular policy for the lefty Labour folks to lap up

Peter Henegan
2023-11-26 08:25:21

Totally agree Edward.

Susan McKenzie
2023-11-26 09:01:43

wealthy continue to send their kids to private schools & don't notice....lower middle classes now cannot afford it....making private schools more elitist than before. According to the article 2% max back into the public purse from the extra taxation which will make sod all difference. Good work, worth it

2023-11-26 10:14:07

I guess, given the available choice locally, I will be voting Labour at the next election. This policy, however, there is nothing progressive about this policy. It was the last Labour government that got rid of the Assisted Places Scheme, the only opportunity for poorer kids who weren’t Scholarship material to get a place at an independent school. Now the Labour Party wants to ensure that it is only the Wealthy and Foreign Rich who have access to our Independent Schools. Every day I go past a state school and see the wives of tax evading builders lined up outside in the new Range Rovers and Porsche Cayenne. If you want a few bob more for state schools, then go after those who use our services but don’t pay their way, don’t go after those normal families who sacrifice and struggle to do the best for their kids. This is the ‘Don’t you dare step out of you Class’ Labour Party.

2023-11-26 10:27:26

This "charity" St Nicholas School is also a limited company. This is a commercial operation that is profiting from tax breaks given to them by the Conservative governments. How may business are allowed to register themselves a charity just to get preferential tax breaks? Does Tesco, Asda, the local corner shop do this? This "charity" has seen its income rise every year since 2018. So unlike many other businesses, sorry, charities, it saw its income rise throughout the pandemic. By sheer coincidence, it also saw its income from government grants increase over the same period. This is taxpayers subsidising a business, and that business also getting preferential tax breaks. At the same time, state schools have had cuts, more cuts, collapsing roofs, and unsafe buildings. Excuse me while I try to find my violin for these poor businesses. It's difficult to find as it is very, very small.

2023-11-26 10:57:16

This isn’t about getting rid of the anachronistic Charity Status - This is about putting VAT on fees - VAT is a regressive tax which always hurts those least able to pay. By all means, if you have the political courage, the tackle the Charity Status of these schools or more intelligently, use it as tool to ‘guide these schools’ along a path where the uber rich and children of oligarchs pay higher fees and the schools are truly opened up to all - But don’t punish those who want something better for their kids than they have had. We need everyone to pay the tax they owe, rather than who already pay even more tax. While we are doing this, we need to make sure that our top universities are full of kids from a few Public Schools. And NO MORE Prime Ministers from Eton!!!!!

2023-11-26 11:02:43

we need to make sure that our top universities are NOT full of kids from a few Public Schools

2023-11-26 11:33:07

'Does Tesco, Asda...do this' - ermmm https://socialistworker.co.uk/the-troublemaker/prices-soar-but-supermarkets-pay-nothing-in-corporation-tax/. It is true they do not - because they have very sophisticated ways of paying sod all, Hugo! Comparing an independent educational institution to corporations is simply wrong. Also, I think we need to be clear that the pandemic was a Black Swan event, to use this as some sort of stick to beat the school with is also wrong. Many charities saw their incomes swell during the pandemic. The tax payer subsidies almost every business to some degree with tax breaks for reinvestment etc.

2023-11-26 11:43:46

He is right best school in Harlow, I would send my child to a state school if it had the same class sizes and focus on education and the individual. Sadly despite the massive taxes we pay state education is appalling and especially so in Harlow. St Nicks is an excellent school and worth every penny, should labour bring this in they are just killing aspiration and I would home school before my child went to one of the Harlow schools. But that is what socialists do they bring us all down not encourage people to achieve and excel it is the politics of envy and why the UK is in the mess it is in

Luke Burton
2023-11-26 13:33:05

Let me just get my tiny violin out. I'm more concerned about where the majority of children are educated versus the privileged few. How about we sort out the small problem of SFG students (whose only crime is being born to parents not rich enough to send them to Saint Nicholas) being shoved into an unsafe building by the DfE? Also, if you need to rely on an unfair advantage to ensure your child 'excels' then you must have a really low opinion of them. Hundreds of Harlow children attending our state schools manage to get into Oxbridge and other top universities every year - despite not having the elite advantage that a Saint Nicholas' education brings - why can't yours?

2023-11-26 13:37:52

The squeezed middle should send their kids to the state school. And donate the fees they would have paid to that state school.

Buke Lurton
2023-11-26 13:49:47

Luke what does SFG have to do with this? You can hold 2 opinions at once - it isn't a choice of caring about St Nics or SGF. It's the governments fault, clearly what is happening with inadequate buildings. By bringing them into it you are tacitly suggesting that if St Nics was charged VAT then SGF wouldn't have been fudged up? Or are you just straw manning cause you don't like private education? You are quite correct that there are incredibly talented kids from state backrounds at Oxbridge & that's something to be celebrated. But again, you're making assumptions that parents of St Nics kids are some sort of snooty social climbers who only care about getting their kids into a named university. What evidence can actually provide? your assumptions do not count.

Luke Burton
2023-11-26 14:05:08

Then why do people send their children to private school if it isn't to ensure they get an unfair advantage for post-18 options? It certainly isn't about ensuring their kids are 'well-rounded', because they're only being surrounded by wealthy children between the hours of 0800 and 1600. Better sporting facilities? There are clubs outside of school for that. Smaller class sizes and more teacher contact time? Surely that's just so they get better grades and ergo, have better post-18 choices. More support for the academically gifted? State schools (in Harlow and beyond, especially Bishop's Stortford) already have programmes dedicated to the high-achievers with events such as visits to the University of Cambridge, medical/dental/veterinary conferences, support for early UCAS applications, support for Oxford/Cambridge/BMAT/UCAT admissions tests.

2023-11-26 14:28:32

Quite right indeed - I was lucky enough to be a part of the early iterations of those programs (a million years ago it seems!) at my state school and got to visit universities when it was at the latter stages of secondary education. Your reasoning around ‘well rounded’ is again completely on negative assumptions. No one apart from idiots think you’re well round because you’re around wealthy people. It’s ‘well rounded’ as it were because of excellent pastoral care, a friendly and caring atmosphere and emphasis on the kids free thinking. Not every kid will come out going to Oxford and that’s fine and no one expects that. But if they come out happy and ready for the world I don’t see any reason to dislike the school. It doesn’t interfere with the great parts of our state system - and state schools come to St Nics to use the facilities for free, which again is brilliant

2023-11-26 14:41:22

Luke - The universe does not care, there is no such thing and an unfair advantage. People work hard to send their kids private because state education is so random (some schools good, most are average). St Nicks has really helped my shy son develop in a large class at state school he would be forgotten and overlooked. Yes you are right about associating with other children of successful and caring parents, who take education seriously and do not tolerate disruptive children in the classes or teachers who do not perform. There is no unfair advantage, just parents who work hard getting the best for their kids, anyone can do it. To be honest I would make all schools private and abolish state schools if you want the best for children. Gov should just allocate funding to parents

Luke Burton
2023-11-26 14:46:03

I better hand my various degrees to you then, Adam. Clearly I don't deserve them as my parents didn't work hard enough, tolerated disruptive children in my class and low-performing teachers.

2023-11-26 15:14:21

Funny I had the same experience Luke, poor teachers, teachers who actively disliked me (hard to understand right), disruptive students and no one sent me to private school. However, I work 100 hours a week to ensure my child gets the best education possible, because I know state education is failure mostly. When / If you have children will you send them to state schools if you could afford to send them private because even senior labour politicians make that choice

Luke Burton
2023-11-26 15:24:58

I would absolutely send my children to state school. I no longer live in Harlow, but I'd happily send them to SFG assuming the buildings are sorted out by the time they're of age, and then onwards to Bishop's Stortford for sixth form.

2023-11-26 17:54:18

God I wish rich people stopped complaining. They'd rather have their special little private schools than better schools for everyone, because f*ck the poor am I right?

2023-11-26 19:59:37

Ending the state subsidy on private schools is long overdue. Why should the many subsidise the elitist advantage of the few.

2023-11-27 12:09:02

Rather that start with VAT on people educating their children, maybe we should pay VAT on the cost of polluting Summer Holiday Flights – That way we could ensure that those who struggle to afford a Foreign Holiday stay here and spend here – A win, win, win situation. – No poorer people in the airports, a plus to the UK economy and we could spend all that extra VAT on education.

2023-11-28 19:30:18

Thanks Wa. Needed to be said. Education is something that all should have an equal opportunity in. If people want to send their children to private schools then don't expect the rest of us to subsidise it.

James Leppard
2023-11-29 13:38:24

What Wa seems to overlook is that parents who make sacrifices to send their children to independent schools are already paying the full tax burden towards the state sector. The fees they pay for private education is a voluntary expenditure choice, no different to somebody else being a new vehicle or foreign holidays. If private education become unaffordable to them, there will be no 'VAT surplus' as they will withdraw their children from the independent sector, place them in the State sector and cease to pay fees. To the extent that this occurs, the Stwte sector will see no financial benefit; on the contrary, just move pupils into existing schools.

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