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Labour’s plan for private schools will threaten the education of service children says Sir Iain Duncan Smith

Labour’s plan for private schools will threaten the education of service children says Sir Iain Duncan Smith

NEWS

19 Jul, 2023

Concerns are now mounting about the impact that the proposals will have on the children of military families, as many attend boarding schools that provide stability of education while their parents are posted across the world.

Labour’s plan to remove tax breaks for private schools is “monstrous” and will threaten the education of children of parents in the Armed Forces, Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said.

Sir Keir Starmer has announced plans to strip independent schools of their charitable status, which would cost them exemptions for corporation tax and VAT.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that the VAT raid would raise £1.7 billion from VAT and £104 million in business rates. However, the think tank also said that the plans will push up to 40,000 children out of private schools and into state schools – at a cost of up to £300 million per year to the taxpayer.

Private school leaders have warned that scrapping the charitable status will push up fees for parents.

While the MOD pays for most of the fees for military families, the proposals may mean that some could be saddled with extra bills to the point where their children’s education becomes unaffordable.

Responding to the plans, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative Party leader, and a military veteran, described them as “a monstrous mistake”. He told the Sunday Telegraph that the move could not only disrupt the education of Armed Forces children, but also that it would displace a significant number of private school children who would be scrambling for school places due to the current provision of state education.

The Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, and former minister, said: “My thoughts are that this is a monstrous mistake on Labour’s part, even [former Labour Prime Minister, Tony] Blair realised that this is a policy aimed at the hard left of Labour who see private schools as their attack on capitalism. Parents across the country don’t see that and they recognise the sacrifices that people make are crucial. Labour’s huge mistake will damage all sorts of people, especially Armed Forces families who are constantly on the move and need places where their children can be stable.”

However, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and was promoted to lieutenant in the Scots Guards where he served in Northern Ireland and Zimbabwe, said it was not just military families that would be impacted by the plans, suggesting that there are not enough places for them.

He added: “What will they do with all of the private school kids who will be displaced and need to go to state schools. This is a closed red meat Labour policy aimed at the Corbynistas in Labour, it’s all about envy and politics and nothing about human choices.”

The Labour Party said
that under its Government, it “will make political choices in favour of spreading opportunity to every child”. It will use the money raised from levying VAT on private schools and ending their business rates exemption to spend the money on “improving standards and opportunities for the over nine in ten children attending state schools”.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon OBE
, a chemical weapons expert and former British Army colonel, said: “Having been a service child who went to independent school while my parents were living abroad, and the same with my own children too, speaking as a soldier, if that’s not going to be an option in future, it will be very difficult to provide continuity of education for service children and also very difficult to recruit people to the military. A soldier needs to make sure that his family are completely happy, safe and well looked after while they are fighting for their country and the children are the most important of all and if they are not being properly educated then that will be a desperately difficult position.” He added: “We have seen very recently that the military gets a lower pay rise than other public services, it’s them that do the fighting and it’s crucial that the Government look after them and their children so that they get a good education. For many, the only way is through independent or boarding schools. Anything that changes that will have an effect on morale across the military.”

A Labour spokesperson said
: “Given that taxpayers already foot the bill for the majority of these fees, we do not believe that this will result in disruption. Labour will deliver a brilliant state education for every child, funded by removing these indefensible tax breaks.”