Union warns of consequences of ending independent schools tax exemptions
The leader of the Headteachers’ union, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has warned that independent schools face an uncertain future under a Labour Government.
Following a pledge by Party Leader, Keir Starmer at the last Labour Conference that the charitable status for many independent schools would be removed, along with exemptions on VAT and business tax, ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton has penned an open letter outlining his concerns.
He said: “If Labour wins the next general election, it is fair to say that we don’t really know a great deal about what it would mean for education as yet. One thing we do know, however, is that it intends to end tax exemptions for independent schools.
“Labour is certainly anticipating a very large ‘dividend’ from its plans for independent schools if it is expecting this to fund an army of new teachers, careers advisors, plus work experience opportunities and digital devices. But, even if you agree with the ideological premise of removing charitable status – and that is itself contentious – how realistic is Labour’s plan?”
ASCL’s membership includes many independent school leaders and a recent survey amongst independent school headteachers in England, found that 96% had charitable status and which meant they currently qualified for a number of exemptions.
Respondents were asked about the impact on their school if charitable status was removed Common concerns included:
- The likely closure of the school with pupils being displaced into the state sector and the associated extra costs to the state
- An increase in school fees leading to some pupils being withdrawn and again being displaced into the state sector
- Cuts to bursary-assisted places for pupils
- Cuts to partnership working with local state schools
Geoff Barton commented: “A sudden forced change of school would of course be disruptive and stressful for the students concerned, not to mention the staff who would lose their jobs. But beside the human cost, it would obviously mean that the state would have to pick up the cost for each pupil displaced into a maintained school.
“That is at least £4,265 per primary school pupil, and £5,525 per secondary school pupil in 2022/23 –so the total bill could become very large very quickly.
“Whether this would entirely wipe out the ‘dividend’ from ending tax exemptions is difficult to say, but it would clearly make a sizeable dent. It seems extremely unlikely that there would be enough money left to pay for an army of teachers and careers advisors.”
Contact Haslers for advice.
Contact Haslers for advice