Labour are set to force a vote on private school tax breaks in a bid to boost the number of teachers in state schools. Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has previous lambasted prime minister Rishi Sunak over the charitable status of private schools, which affords them tax relief in the UK.
The push to vote on the matter comes as research by the Labour Party shows that the number of those leaving the teaching profession through the UK in state school is outperforming the number of those joining. According to research, 36,262 members of teaching staff left the teaching profession in 2020/21, compared with only 34,394 starters on Initial Teacher Training - this marked a shortfall of 1,868.
If the vote is successful, Labour is planning on using the tax raised from private school instiutions on funding more teacher training and places throughout the country. The party is also accusing the Conservative government of falling short of its levelling-up targets and instead increasing the gap between state and private schools by allowing the tax relief.
The charitable status of private schools has become a controversial suject. While supporters argue that this allows for the UK’s private schools to continously produce high-quality education, some have argued that the instituions do not meet the ‘public benefit’ requirement to be given charitable staus.
What have MPs said about private school tax breaks?
Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said: “Labour believes that excellence is for everyone: that is why we would end tax breaks for private schools and invest that money in 6,500 additional teachers, reducing workloads and driving up to standards in all our state schools through our National Excellence Programme.
“Labour recognises that after thirteen years of Conservative economic mismanagement, which culminated in the Conservatives crashing the economy last year, tough choices must be made to protect public finances - but the choice facing MPs today is easy. Conservative MPs can either vote to deliver a brilliant state for education for every child or they vote against the interests of parents across this country who aspire for better for their children, especially those in the very regions their party pledged to ‘level up’.”
Previously, in a heated exchange during PMQs, Starmer criticised Sunak’s unwillingness to change the current charitable status label for private schools. He said: “Winchester College has a rowing club, a rifle club and extensive art collection – they charge over £45,000 a year in fees. Why did he hand them nearly £6m of taxpayers’ money this year in what his levelling up secretary calls ‘egregious state support’?”
Starmer added: “If he thinks the route to better education in this country is tax breaks for private schools in the hope they might hand some of that down to state schools – that’s laughable. Trickle-down education is nonsense.”
Sunak fired back at Starmer, claiming that the Labour leader’s proposal would hinder “aspiration”. He said: “He is attacking people like my parents. This is a country that believes in opportunity, not resentment. He doesn’t understand that, and that’s why he’s not fit to lead.”