ISC CEO responds to Labour's U-turn on ending charitable status of independent schools

Posted on: 28 Sept 2023

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), has warned that Labour's tax plans will affect the wider education sector, from smaller schools to SEND providers and cross-sector partnerships.

In an interview with John Pienaar on Times Radio yesterday, Ms Robinson outlined her concerns over Labour's tax proposals and discussed the implications the policy would have for smaller independent schools and the state system. She said: " Schools are under an enormous range of cost pressures at the moment, not just with the cost of living but pensions rises, all sorts of other costs as well." Referencing Labour's policy, Ms Robinson later added: "It just doesn’t seem fair to create an additional punitive tax on parents who pay school fees, it does seem very targeted in fact and we’re particularly concerned about the effect it would have on children." Calling on Sir Keir Starmer's party to give careful consideration to his party's plans, Ms Robinson said: "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 earlier today, 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 (SEND). "They’ll be making independent schooling more expensive and it will hurt, the most, all those accessible, local, small independent schools, and most of the 1400 schools I represent," Ms Robinson said. "Over 1000 of them are little schools with a few hundred pupils so they don’t have big profits, they’re not for profits, they might be charities they might not, but they work to really tight margins so they’re really attacking normal working parents here," she concluded. (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". Ms Robinson highlighted the impact the tax plans would have on the provision of education for children with SEND. She explained: "We’ve got 100,000 special needs children in the independent sector and they need to be provided for, so it [Labour's policy] could not just fail to raise money, it could cost the state money in accommodating those new pupils." (The segment begins at 01:24:43)