VAT on fees: ‘These proposals demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of who we are and what we do’

Posted on: 17 Jun 2024
Posted by: Alison King

Alison King, librarian and PSE lead at Kings Monkton School, explains how her school’s offering would be impacted by the pledge to impose VAT on fees – and the wider effects this could have on families and the local community.

Kings Monkton is a small independent school that sits just outside Cardiff City Centre. Created through the amalgamation of King’s College and Monkton House in 1994, it caters for 295 pupils from ages 3-18. We aim to foster an inclusive educational experience for all, with foundations firmly rooted in a learning environment that is innovative, family focused and above all, happy. We give children the space to be children, to develop at their own speed, and to be the best they can be.

Kings Monkton specialises in supporting children with additional learning needs (ALN) such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. Many of our children are privately funded by their parents or carers, but the Welsh government recognises our uniqueness and we receive children funded by various local authorities when their needs cannot be met in the state sector.

Our parents tend to be part of a dual earning household, typically falling into the <£50k bracket. They accommodate our fees by making sacrifices in other areas of their lives. Many struggle to find the right provision and come to us in the later stages of their journey, frustrated and desperately seeking a supportive learning environment for their child.

The proposed 20 per cent VAT on fees would make our school unaffordable for some families, forcing them to withdraw their children and seek to place them elsewhere. This would cause disruption to their education and have a significant impact on their wellbeing as they leave behind their classmates, teachers, and a curriculum that is tailored to them. We must also consider the additional pressure this would place on a state sector that is already overwhelmed and underfunded.

The increase would also jeopardise our bursary programme, which currently allows us to support pupils from low-income households. Families can benefit from a reduction in fees through these bursaries, which we distribute in addition to any scholarships obtained through our scholarship examinations process. This additional support makes our provision instantly more accessible. We are not a charity; we are a not-for-profit school. Any rise in fees will only push us further from the reach of those who need us the most.

Within the state system many of our pupils with ALN would be (or indeed have been) labelled as “difficult”. It is possible they would find themselves in behaviour units, that their learning would be inconsistent, or would not meet their needs, that the future they and their families have been planning for would no longer be attainable. 

Finally, any decline in our viability would impact our local community. Kings Monkton plays a key role within the local economy, through:
●    employment of 122 staff
●    support of local transport and housing
●    facilitation of Chinese and Mandarin schools on weekends
●    nightly music lessons
●    support of KIRAN, a non-profit organisation 
●    work with Crisis to support Cardiff’s homeless community
●    offering a base to the Cardiff Players and Kinetic School of Performing Arts. 

In addition, we are the only local test centre for home-schooled children in this area, and last year we supported 77 such pupils in obtaining their qualifications. 

We have fought hard over the years to carve out space for ourselves on a competitive playing field that is constantly evolving. In any area of modern life, a one-size-fits-all approach denies our individuality and strips us of our uniqueness. At Kings Monkton, the things that make us different are cause for celebration, rather than hurdles to overcome. These proposals do not reflect the best interests of our school, and moreover, they demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of who we are and what we do. If implemented, they will actively inhibit us from supporting some of our community’s most vulnerable learners.

About Alison King

Alison King is a librarian and PSE lead at Kings Monkton School