ISC response to Michael Gove's comment in The Times

Posted on: 24 Feb 2017

Following Michael Gove's comment piece in The Times, which argued for the removal of private schools' tax advantages, ISC rebut his claims and outline the huge contribution ISC schools make to the national education system and the economy.

It is a shame that the privately educated Michael Gove did not check with an expert before outlining his proposals for independent schools, which are incredibly proud to be part of the national education system.

Removing charitable status would be hugely counter-productive, for both the independent and state school sectors, and for the taxpayer. Indeed, as The Times itself commented in its excellent leader on 4 January this year, “far from closing the attainment gap, the reform would entrench it.”

Charitable status is worth an estimated £150 million to independent schools, but comes, quite properly, with conditions, chiefly that public benefit must be demonstrated. Every year, therefore, independent schools provide more than £350 million in free places and reduced fees to children from low-income homes, while the 1,550 partnerships that independent and state schools enter into voluntarily and as equal partners, support 160,000 state sector students a year. These partnerships include new free schools, and sharing of teachers, in particular in subjects where there is a shortage in state schools such as maths, physics and foreign languages, and of teaching, sport, drama, music and art facilities.

Clearly, if charitable status was removed, it would substantially impact the ability of independent schools to continue to provide the same scale of partnership work, let alone extend it, as they are keen to do. Indeed independent schools are currently in very constructive discussions with the Government to increase cross-sector partnership working and bursaries even further, where state school leaders want it to happen. Additionally, those independent schools with a smaller number of pupils which do rely on charitable status, may have to close, as Mr Gove says. They would then, as some former independent schools have done, join the state sector – bringing the £5,500-a-year cost per state school pupil on to the taxpayer.

As research from Oxford Economics in 2014 found, the saving to the taxpayer from the 500,000 pupils in Independent Schools Council schools not being in state education is worth £3 billion, while the tax revenues generated by these schools is £3.6 billion. ISC schools additionally contribute £9.5 billion to the UK economy and the sector supports well over 200,000 jobs in the UK.