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Daily News Summary
28 September 2023

Labour U-turns on plans to end charitable status of independent schools but still pledges to add VAT to fees
Increase in autumn Covid cases risks exacerbating pupil absence crisis, school leaders warn
Student mental health issues have almost tripled in six years, research finds

Labour U-turns on plans to end charitable status of independent schools but still pledges to add VAT to fees


There is widespread coverage of the news that Labour is no longer planning to end the charitable status of independent schools, although the party still intends to remove charitable reliefs and add VAT to school fees if it comes to power. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had previously said that charitable status for independent schools could not be justified, but has now said his party could remove "unfair tax breaks" without changing the rules on charitable status. Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), has been quoted extensively on the issue across the media, warning that taking away tax reliefs associated with charitable status for schools would create "a two-tier system within the charity sector" and would set a "worrying precedent that any charity seen as not reflecting the political ideology of the day could be subject to additional taxes". BBC News.

In an interview with John Pienaar on Times Radio yesterday, Julie Robinson discussed the implications the policy would have for smaller independent schools and the state system, adding: "I’m hoping that Labour will look at this in more detail, recognise the complexities and nuances of the situation, and find a better solution that isn’t just punishing parents and punishing a type of school." Speaking to Nick Robinson on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Ms Robinson challenged the notion that this would not be a tax on parents, and warned of the impact it would have on children in faith schools, those on bursaries, and those with special educational needs and disabilities. (Listen from 1:33:42.) In an interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC, also this morning, the ISC chief executive made clear the distinction between charitable status and VAT, and warned the policy would displace children from independent schools to state schools, putting "increasing pressure on an already stretched state sector". (The segment begins at 01:24:43)

The Guardian quotes a Labour spokesperson who told PA Media: “Our policy remains. We will remove the unfair tax breaks that private schools benefit from, to fund desperately needed teachers and mental health counselling in every secondary school." Ms Robinson is quoted, saying: “We would love to work with Labour to build more effective ways to achieve our shared goal of improving education for all young people.” By Tom Ambrose. 

Sir Keir has denied he is launching an “attack on private schools” but that his party needs to raise money by taxing them to improve the “appalling state sector”. By George Grylls and Steven Swinford, The Times.

Sky News' Sam Coates argues that there is "a clear political logic" to Labour's U-turn, as removing the charitable status of schools is a "highly complex affair". A source is quoted saying the change of policy "is the worst of all worlds for schools".

Writing in The Telegraph, associate editor Camilla Tominey references the ISC's survey of parents, which found 20 per cent would "definitely" take have to withdraw their children from the independent sector under Labour's plans. Several schools in membership of the ISC's constituent associations are mentioned. Michael Hartland, headmaster of Chase Grammar School, and Bill Pratt, headmaster of Naima Jewish Prep School, are quoted.

In its 'real life' feature series, iNews interviews Andrea, a mother who explains she will no longer be able to afford her gifted children's independent school fees if Labour gets into power. "It’s a necessity not a want to be for my children to be in a private school," says Andrea, adding: "I’ve worked hard to get where we are and I feel like we’re being penalised for that." By Claudia Tanner. 

The news of Labour's U-turn on charitable status and proposed school fee tax plans has also been covered by iNews, The Independent, The Financial Times, The Sun and The Daily Express.


Increase in autumn Covid cases risks exacerbating pupil absence crisis, school leaders warn


A rise in Covid-19 cases this autumn is leading to an increase in pupil and staff absence in schools, assistant general secretary of the NAHT James Bowen has warned. A new variant of the virus is spreading and official figures show hospital cases have tripled since July, prompting concern. By Cerys Turner, Tes.


Student mental health issues have almost tripled in six years, research finds


Mental health problems among students have nearly tripled in six years, according to research from the Policy Institute at King’s College London and the Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education, although the steepest rise in reported mental health issues occurred in the last 12 months. Experts cited that this was a period during which the cost-of-living crisis intensified. By Blathnaid Corless, The Telegraph. 

The Telegraph


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