Keir Starmer doubles down on bid to tax private school fees to fund speaking skills in schools
- Labour leader said he would use the VAT to fund early language interventions
Sir Keir Starmer today doubled down on his plan to tax private school fees – and dismissed concerns that the plan would push pupils into the state sector.
Announcing a plan to smash the ‘class ceiling’ by boosting poorer children’s education, the Labour leader said he would use the VAT to fund early language interventions.
Labour wants to charge private schools VAT and scrap the 80 per cent relief they receive on business rates – but has been accused of attacking the ‘hard-working aspiration’ of millions of people.
Sir Keir said today that the money raised would be used to give every primary school funding that will ‘let them invest in world-class early language interventions, and help our children find their voice’.
It is part of his proposals to introduce more speaking skills to the curriculum to ensure young people leave school better-prepared for work and life.
Sir Keir Starmer today doubled down on his plan to tax private school fees – and dismissed concerns that the plan would push pupils into the state sector
But it is the third time that Labour has allocated the money, which it claims will raise £1.71billion for the Treasury – a figure disputed by heads.
Labour has previously said the money would deliver 6,500 teachers and support staff, and at the weekend said it would be used to pay teachers £2,400 in the early stages of their careers.
Speaking at a college in Gillingham, Kent, today Sir Keir said that speaking skills are ‘absolutely critical for our children’s future success’.
‘First and foremost – for academic attainment. Talking through your ideas before putting them on the page, improves writing. Structured classroom discussion – deepens thinking.
‘But it’s not just a skill for learning, it’s also a skill for life. Not just for the workplace, also for working out who you are – for overcoming shyness or disaffection, anxiety or doubt – or even just for opening up more to our friends and family.’
Labour has faced a backlash for retaining Jeremy Corbyn’s policy of scrapping private schools’ charitable status, which exempts them from VAT on fees.
Independent schools which claim charitable status are expected to help children from a wider variety of backgrounds – through bursaries or sharing their facilities with state schools.
Critics say Labour’s plan would cost the taxpayer £400million a year in part due to the extra cost of having to state-educate the displaced pupils.
But Sir Keir insisted today that he was ‘confident’ about the money the policy would raise.
Critics say Labour’s plan would cost the taxpayer £400million a year in part due to the extra cost of having to state-educate the displaced pupils (File image)
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This theory that if there’s an increase in fees for private schools everybody will go to state schools…
‘Over the last few years private school fees have gone up above inflation for many years and it hasn’t had that effect. I don’t actually accept that argument.’
In his speech, Sir Keir also said a Labour government would modernise the national curriculum – but appeared to rule out proposing changes before the next general election.
‘I think the case for change is compelling. I’ve set out the principles that we would want to underpin the review, but I do think it is best that that review is done in government when we’ve got the ability to bring everybody together behind what will be a really important change in our education system.’
And he promised to focus on improving standards in state schools, which Labour says would be funded by axing tax exemptions for private schools – a move the party expects to raise at least £1billion.
This would include recruiting more than 6,500 teachers and introducing a requirement for all new teachers to hold or be working towards qualified teacher status, Labour said.
At the heart of Sir Keir’s mission is abolishing the ‘snobbery’ he says surrounds an ‘academic/vocational divide’ in education.
Both types of learning should be valued equally, he said in his speech.
‘This isn’t a zero-sum game. If we grow the talents of every person in our country – that benefits everyone,’ Sir Keir added.