‘It is children like mine who will pay the cost of Labour’s policies’

Lucy Charles
'I cannot convey here the awfulness of the Labour policy, and the immense impact it will have on hundreds of parents like me' - Tony Buckingham

This letter was sent from Lucy Charles, a mother who was suddenly faced with pulling her daughter out of her private school after her ex-husband decided to stop paying his share of the school fees. The Sussex boarding school offered her a lifeline, a 70pc bursary, worth £35,000 per year. Now, Ms Charles worries that due to Labour’s VAT raid on private schools, other children won’t be so fortunate.

We gave up on the state sector when our daughter was five years old. Or rather I should say, the state sector had given up on us.

Our bright as a button, energetic and engaging little girl could not be accommodated in her school at the time because she was too demanding and was failing to keep up with the class.

We were told that she would have to be kept down a year. She is a late-June birthday so she was very young for her year, and at five years old it makes a big difference.

As parents we were not unduly bothered, we were both academically high-achieving and our home was filled with books. We read to our little girl every night which she enjoyed, as she has a lively imagination but she could not read herself.

We were not dismayed by this. We took the view that she’d learn in her own time and we did not intend to make her stressed about it. But the school became insistent. So we discussed with our daughter the possibility of her staying down a year to catch up.

She was devastated. She told us that her schoolmates would think she was stupid and laugh at her. The worst thing in the world for her was the prospect that her beloved best friend would not be in her class anymore.

When we said they could still play together at break she cried really hard, and was angry with us for not understanding playground politics – she would be considered a “baby”, and therefore a social leper.

Over the next couple of weeks, we did our best to cajole our daughter, plead with teachers and try to think of a way forward. We watched our daughter become more fragile and withdrawn every day.

One morning after the school run, I drove up the drive of a local prep school and unannounced, asked if I could look around. They were as smiling and accommodating as our own school had not been.

After three hours, I knew I had found the right place to entrust our daughter’s education to. I made an appointment for our daughter and my husband to look around the next day.

A little over a year after starting at the private school, I went upstairs to check on our offspring and found her reading a novel under the bed clothes with a torch. It was the proudest moment of my life.

I cried with relief and happiness. With careful nurturing and patience, our daughter became a reader.  What none of us realised was that the adventures of Biff & Chip – used to teach reading in the state sector – were so mind-numbing and boring to our daughter that she could not be bothered to learn to read.

But given some intellectual stimulation, she whizzed ahead and has never put a book down; now, she is growing her own extensive library.

Fast forward and my daughter was in the middle of her spring term at school. She was getting ready to take her GCSE exams the next term, in which she was expected to get a set of wonderful grades – the culmination of several hard years of hard work.

The only unfortunate blot being that her father and I had divorced some three years before and although money had been put aside for both of us to pay for her education until sixth form, my ex-husband’s new wife decided that her husband should no longer pay any contribution to the fees.

This happened quite suddenly and without warning. Step-mother and daughter had disagreed and this was revenge.

So I found myself with the prospect of having to pay all the fees for the following term. There was no question that I had to pay that bill. As an art historian and curator, I was not that well paid and was already making huge financial sacrifices to meet my side of the fees.

Taking my courage in my hands, I went to see the bursar at school. I told him of our situation and dilemma. The school gave us a bursary so that my daughter could sit her GCSE exams without disruption to her mental and educational health.

The amount may sound pitiful – it was “only” £6,000 – but to me, at that moment, it might well have been £6m. I didn’t have the money and could not raise it.

Getting a bursary is like all your birthdays coming at once. It is the best thing to ever happen to me (and also to my daughter).

I cried, I felt sick with relief and I was so very, very grateful. My job is about protecting our cultural heritage and history and here were people, our school, looking after my child’s future.

My daughter was also able to apply for a scholarship and a bursary which she gained to enable her to finish her sixth form studies. She is now at a Russell Group university planning her future in which she will contribute to our society.

But perhaps the best lessons she has learned are those from being given the most precious gift, her education. As a mother, I fully intend to repay our bursary so that when the time comes in the future, and there is another little girl who finds themselves in straitened circumstances, there is money available for a bursary for them.

Labour’s VAT raid on private schools will force many to cut bursaries and scholarships – and fees will get further out of reach for ordinary families.

I cannot convey here the awfulness of the Labour policy, and the immense impact it will have on hundreds of parents like me – quite ordinary, not posh, who just want the best education for our bright children who otherwise would have fallen by the wayside and possibly been a cost to our country rather than an asset.

I am very, very angry – and I am saving hard with immense gratitude.

As told to Pieter Snepvangers.