Labour to end ‘£700m’ private school subsidy unless state partnership conditions are met

The Labour party would change the law to end ‘generous state subsidies’ for private schools that do not partner with state schools, says Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt.

Speaking this morning at Walthamstow Academy – a member of the state and private school partnership United Learning – he will say private schools are currently benefiting from business rates relief, tax breaks and having qualified teachers trained by the state.

Hunt will claim, however, the majority of private schools are not doing enough to justify the business rates relief, a state subsidy which he estimates to be worth around £700 million over the course of a parliament, or £147 million per year.

In return for the subsidy, private schools would have to meet a new Schools Partnership Standard, which will require them to:

• provide qualified teachers in specialist subjects to state schools;

• share expertise to help state school students get into top universities;

• and run joint extra-curricular programmes where the state schools is an equal partner so children can mix and sectors learn from each other.

In announcing Labour’s plans, Hunt is expected to say: “I realise that to some this may seem an unnecessarily tough test. But that is not because I want to penalise private education but because I want to make sure we break down the barriers holding Britain back.

“I passionately believe we deserve an education system where the majority of young people enjoy the same access to excellence as the privileged seven per cent; where disadvantaged pupils no longer feel any anxiety or insecurity at aspiring towards success because they feel success belongs to them; and where our children experience equality of opportunity rather than just learn it is one of our core values.

“But most of all I want us to become a country where we no longer feel the need to point out how few state educated members there are in the top universities, professions and sports teams because that description simply no longer rings true.

That is the prize we are chasing with this new partnership. And believe me: clawing back business rate relief will be a poor consolation if we do not bring it about.”

Hunt describes the current arrangements as a corrosive divide in education, claiming just three per cent of private schools sponsor an academy, while only a further five per cent loan teaching staff to state schools and a third share facilities.

“The only possible answer to whether they earn their £700 million subsidy is a resounding and unequivocal ‘no’

“Over the last few years we have seen the limitations of asking private schools politely. So the next government will say to them: step up and play your part. Earn your keep. Because the time you could expect something for nothing is over’,”  he is expected to say.

New legislation would need to be passed to amend the 1988 Local Government Act making business rate relief conditional to ‘hard-edged partnership’ with a state school, or consortium of schools. Labour say the Education Act and the Independent Schools Regulations would also be amended to establish the criteria upon which private schools will be judged by their accredited inspectorate.

Follow @AWonlocation for live tweeting from the speech, and see the next edition of Schools Week for more analysis and reaction.

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