ISC CEO: Accessible schools would 'really suffer' under VAT on fees policy

Posted on: 11 Jun 2024

In an interview with Ben Kentish on LBC, ISC chief executive Julie Robinson highlighted the types of parents, and schools, that would likely be most affected by Labour’s tax pledge.

Ms Robinson said: "If there’s an assumption that this will operate as some form of wealth tax that’s to misunderstand the independent sector and its parents. There’s a broad range of types of parents and families across the independent sector and the majority of families who pay school fees in the UK are actually dual income households, so both parents are working, and they’re choosing to spend one of those salaries ostensibly on school fees. You’ve got parents who get help from other family members as well, so it’s not actually true to characterise all independent school parents as super, super wealthy.

"Independent schools tend to be really, really small, and lots of them are specialist schools and even special needs schools. So there are parents who have chosen to pay fees when ordinarily it wouldn’t even occur to them, but because they can’t find the exact education they feel their child needs locally they’ve then taken this step. A lot of our parents in independent schooling are new to the sector, they’re choosing [an independent school] for a whole range of reasons because they simply can’t quite find the education their child needs, they’re filling in gaps in state provision - and there’s some great state provision out there but we know the state system is under an awful lot of pressure particularly in special needs.

"We think that it’s going to be small schools, faith schools, music and dance and drama schools, cathedral choir schools and special needs schools that will really, really suffer and that’s the more accessible end, the less expensive end, usually, of independent school education.

"So actually it’s not terribly progressive if you bring in a blanket 20 per cent VAT on all parents who choose to pay the fees if a large number of them then are priced out because they’re on the margins there, and that means children then going into the state sector.

"We are talking large numbers of children moving, we’re already seeing parents changing their behaviour, less likely to commit to independent schools for this coming September."