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Daily News Summary
15 May 2024

Labour’s VAT plans could drive up the cost of school dinners, warn tax experts
Revised government guidance on RSHE and gender identity in English schools expected in coming days
Mainstream schooling ‘intolerable’ for children with ASN, SMPs warn
Vulnerable children in England ‘safer at school’ than being taught at home, review finds

Labour’s VAT plans could drive up the cost of school dinners, warn tax experts


Labour’s plans to impose VAT on independent school fees could include a tax on costs that are currently exempt, tax experts have warned. A source close to shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has refused to deny that the plans could include a 20 per cent levy on additional school services including meals, sports tours, music lessons and trips. David Woodgate, chief executive of the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (ISBA), told The Telegraph: “The problem is we don’t know what we don’t know. [The Labour Party] haven’t given us any denomination at all as to how it will work. Sports and all of that kind of thing aren’t charged separately but [parents] will have questions for things that they do pay extra for, like piano lessons for instance, whether VAT will be levied on that." Reiterating the Independent Schools Council's (ISC) request for Labour officials to clarify their tax plans and provide a detailed plan for independent schools, chief executive of the ISC Julie Robinson said: "We have serious concerns about the policy as it stands, particularly its potential effects on children receiving SEND support, on military families and on those choosing schools that align with their faith.” By Noah Eastwood. 

Simon Larter-Evans, principal of Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, shared his concerns about Labour’s tax plans on BBC Three Counties Radio yesterday. He explained how the proposal to add VAT to school fees appears to undermine Labour’s pledge to boost arts education “because specialist schools like ours will be under threat”. He added that 46 per cent of his pupils receive some form of financial support, meaning “any kind of VAT imposition is going to make [school fees] unaffordable for a huge number of people”. (Listen from 1:42:50)

In an interview with The Telegraph on Abingdon School moving to become co-educational, headteacher Mike Windsor discussed the likely impact of Labour's VAT plans on independent schools. Mr Wilson said: “My concerns about the policy are the impact on the diversity of the independent sector which I think offers parents great choice at the moment and not all schools are large and perhaps able to cope with this; I worry about the impact on some of the specialist provision available in the independent sector and the impact that will have on parents.” Abingdon School, along with Abingdon Preparatory School, is to take girls for the first time in more than 700 years, with the change "driven by the belief that the best preparation for young people is to educate them alongside one another". By Ewan Somerville.


Revised government guidance on RSHE and gender identity in English schools expected in coming days


The teaching of relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) at primary schools in England is to be limited to children aged nine and over, with “explicit” discussions on topics such as contraception to be delayed until the age of 13, according to new government guidance that is expected to be published this week. Education secretary Gillian Keegan will outline the revised RSHE guidance, with reports suggesting teachers will need to explain “biological” facts. By Richard Adams and Pippa Crerar, The Guardian.

School leaders have accused ministers of using children as “a political football” over its proposals to restrict RSHE lessons in England. Speaking to BBC Radio 4 earlier today, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Pepe Di’Iasio said "pupils are being placed in the middle of a highly sensitive subject". By Richard Adams, The Guardian.

Schools will also be told that they should not teach pupils that they can change their gender identity. Ministers will say that the area is highly contested and that teaching children about it could have damaging implications. A live poll asks readers to vote on whether under-13s should be taught about gender identity. By Steven Swinford and Aubrey Allegretti, The Times.


Mainstream schooling ‘intolerable’ for children with ASN, MSPs warn


A report by Holyrood’s Education, Children and Young People Committee has warned that mainstream education for pupils with additional support needs (ASN) can be "intolerable" due to the gap between policy ambition and implementation. Scottish government guidance from 2019 set out a “presumption” of mainstream schooling unless it would be incompatible with a child's needs but an extensive inquiry has found government and local authorities are not implementing it properly. Tes.


Vulnerable children in England ‘safer at school’ than being taught at home, review finds


Children who grow up in neglectful or abusive environments are safer attending school than being educated at home, a report by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel has found. The review into serious safeguarding failures in England emphasised that while home education was not a safeguarding risk, vulnerable children are “less visible” to safeguarding agencies than those who attend school regularly. By Richard Adams, The Guardian.

The Guardian


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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