Labour lines up attack on private schools

Under a Labour government, private schools could lose hundreds of millions of pounds in tax breaks unless they do more to help state schools. Shadow education minister Tristram Hunt is threatening to axe business-rate relief worth around £700m over the next parliament unless they do much more than they currently do, in terms of sharing facilities, staff and expertise.

Writing in The Guardian, Hunt, who is privately educated, notes that although private schools educated only 7% of children, their students take up almost 50% of Oxbridge places. “The division between state and private education damages our society, stifles opportunity and, by wasting talent, inflicts damage upon our economy,” he writes. England’s public schools must rediscover their founding charitable ideals.

“Good for you, Tristram Hunt,” says Rosie Millard in The Independent. “The illogical position of private schools pretending to be charities, and thus claiming large tax breaks, needs to be pointed out as frequently as possible.” A “pitiful few” forge meaningful relationships with local state schools. As for their “odious” bursary schemes, they may boost their exam results, but taking those students leaves the state sector “devoid of some of its brightest role models and champions”.

It’s easy to see the political appeal of this plan, says The Daily Telegraph, but it’s “hopelessly impractical”. It fails to account for the benefits fee-paying schools already provide to communities. There is a risk that many schools will “swallow the extra costs” to avoid serving Labour’s ends, meaning more places for oligarchs’ children and less for everyone else. And let’s not forget that the Treasury keeps the taxes paid by the 7% of the population without having to provide for their children’s education.

Instead of attacking these schools, Hunt should ask “how to get the state sector to measure up”. Ironically, his intervention could destroy the burgeoning partnership he advocates, says Dr Martin Stephen in the same paper. Some independent schools do “brilliant things”. Hunt must be wary of grabbing the proffered olive branch only to be seen “beating

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