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Daily News Summary
8 January 2024

Education experts recognised in New Year's Honours list
ISC CEO: Most independent school families 'simply would not be able to afford' Labour's VAT charge on fees
Labour considered 'retroactive' tax on independent school fees, insiders reveal
Ministers launch campaign to tackle absence issue in schools
Headteachers may refuse Ofsted entry amid fears for teachers’ mental health
Charity calls for 'new names' and 'correct pronouns' to be used when addressing trans pupils
Big rise in plagiarism on university applications

Education experts recognised in New Year's Honours list

 

Headteacher at The Unicorn School Andrew Day and chair of governors at Kent College Joan Cocking have both been awarded MBEs for services to education. To read the full list of awards please click here.

 

ISC CEO: Most independent school families 'simply would not be able to afford' Labour's VAT charge on fees

 

Labour’s plan to impose VAT on independent school fees would not lead to an exodus of pupils, Sir Keir Starmer has insisted. In an interview with LBC Radio, the Labour leader said: “I have looked at this question of will it lead to children leaving private schools and going to state schools and the answer to that on all the evidence that I’ve seen, is no, that it won’t.” Responding to Sir Keir’s comments, Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), said: “Most parents who choose independent schools for their child are dual-income households who sacrifice in order to make this choice. They simply would not be able to afford the extra expense caused by a legal requirement to charge VAT on fees." Reference is made to figures from the latest ISC annual census. By Genevieve Holl-Allen and Louisa Clarence-Smith, The Telegraph.

In a comment piece in The Telegraph, William Sitwell writes "spare a thought for those in the independent sector, those heads not just dealing with the demanding tasks of the everyday but looking ahead to a year that could threaten the very existence of their school". Mr Sitwell explores Labour's plans to impose VAT on school fees, which he believes will not come to fruition. As an alternative, he proposes "a sensible and bold policy" of more tax reliefs for independent schools to "encourage more people to spend their hard-earned money on doing the best for their kids and, in doing so, at no cost whatsoever to the Treasury, ease the burden on the state sector". 

 

Labour considered 'retroactive' tax on independent school fees, insiders reveal

 

The Labour Party explored a move to impose sales tax retroactively on independent school fees to prevent parents avoiding the levy by paying for years of education upfront, according to individuals briefed on internal discussions. Speaking to the Financial Times, a number of headteachers said some "wealthier" parents are paying several years of school fees in advance to prepare for Labour's plan to add VAT to school fees if elected to government later this year. David Woodgate, chief executive of the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (ISBA), said: “The number of parents who can afford to use fees in advance schemes is very small and any political focus on this niche issue is a clear attempt to exploit stereotypes about independent schools." Several headteachers of schools in membership of the ISC's constituent associations are also quoted on the issue. By Anna Gross, Laura Hughes, Jim Pickard and Rafe Uddin.

iNews also reports that Labour is aiming to target "fees in advance" schemes, with a party source telling the paper they intend to make sure schools pay the VAT charge in full. The article quotes a spokesperson for the ISC and mentions several schools in membership of the ISC's constituent associations. By Poppy Wood. 

 

Ministers launch campaign to tackle absence issue in schools

 

Occasional days off school can damage children’s mental health as well as their academic results, education secretary Gillian Keegan will tell parents in a new campaign being launched today. Announcing investment in attendance hubs and attendance mentors to help schools tackle absence problems over the next three years, Ms Keegan will highlight the problem of absence, which has risen sharply since the Covid pandemic. By Nicola Woolcock, The Times

Parents will be told to stop the Covid-era practice of allowing children to stay home with sore throats and colds as part of the government's focus on improving attendance. By Ben Riley-Smith, The Telegraph.

BBC News also covers the story, focussing on a new report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) that has revealed that some parents think children do not need to be in school full-time. The report says multiple solutions are needed to tackle the attendance crisis, largely centred around engagement with parents. By Nathan Standley.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has pledged to outline the “generational challenges” facing England’s schools and pupils in a keynote speech tomorrow, with Labour pledging to reset the “broken relationship between schools and families” by tackling the crisis in pupil absences and child mental health. By Richard Adams and Kiran Stacey, The Guardian. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Ms Phillipson discusses her party's plans to tackle absenteeism. She says: “If I were secretary of state, I’d be sending a very clear message to parents that every day at school matters, and that irresponsible parents who don’t care about sending their kids to school are harming other kids’ life chances, not just their own.” By Caroline Wheeler and Sian Griffiths.

Confederation of School Trusts (CST) chief executive Leora Cruddas has told Tes that while she supports the measures announced today, they will not be sufficient to fix the crisis, adding a “much more systemic” and cross-governmental approach is needed. By Matilda Martin.

An editorial piece in today's Telegraph looks at the issue of absenteeism in schools, concluding that "the new campaign is welcome but it should not have been necessary". 

 

Headteachers may refuse Ofsted entry amid fears for teachers’ mental health

 

Headteachers have told The Observer they are considering refusing entry to Ofsted until the watchdog commits to significant change, after a coroner’s warning that the inspection system risks contributing to future deaths. Sir Martyn Oliver marked his arrival as Ofsted's new chief inspector last week by announcing a two-week pause to inspections until 22 January, while inspectors received “immediate training” on alleviating stress. By Anna Fazackerley.

Sir Martyn will lead Ofsted inspectors in observing a minute’s silence for Ruth Perry during training today to mark the first anniversary of the headteacher’s death. By Lucas Cumiskey, Schools Week

 

Charity calls for 'new names' and 'correct pronouns' to be used when addressing trans pupils

 

In advice that appears to contradict a government consultation, charity Governors for Schools (GfS) has said “new names” and “correct pronouns” should be used when addressing trans pupils. The organisation, which recruits school governors and fills voluntary governor vacancies across England and Wales, published its guidance in November but updated its online resources last week. By Charlotte Gill, The Telegraph.

 
The Telegraph

Big rise in plagiarism on university applications

 

The number of pupils caught plagiarising on university applications has doubled in the past two years, figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) suggest. According to the data, the number of personal statements flagged for plagiarism reached 7,300 last year, up from 3,559 two years ago. By Max Kendix, The Times. 

 
The Times

 

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) monitors the national and educational press in order to keep independent schools up-to-date with relevant education news. The DNS is a service primarily for schools in membership of ISC associations, although other interested parties can choose to sign-up. We endeavour to include relevant news and commentary and, wherever possible, notable public letters. Where capacity allows, we may include links to ISC blogs, press statements and information about school or association events. News stories are selected based on their relevance to the independent sector as a whole. Editorial control of the DNS remains solely with the ISC.

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