Some schools ‘could go to the wall’ under Labour’s planned tax on private sector

Some schools could “go to the wall” and teachers may lose their jobs under Labour’s planned tax on private schools, a union chief has suggested.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said he was “concerned” about the possible consequences of Labour’s proposals to charge 20% VAT on private school fees in England.

Speaking at the union’s annual conference in Harrogate, Yorkshire, the NASUWT leader said there could be “more pressure” on the public sector if small independent schools are forced to close due to the policy.

When asked about Labour’s plan to charge 20% VAT on private school fees, Mr Roach told the media: “The consequence for many independent schools – and many of them by the way are relatively small-scale organisations – they are possibly struggling anyway to recruit intake and to maintain footfall.

“Then, when they go to the wall, there’s less money coming into the exchequer and there’s more pressure on public services, because those kids are going to be educated somewhere.”

He added: “If I’m being ideological, it’s about our members. Because when those schools close, our members are effectively out of a job.”

Mr Roach said the union, which represents tens of thousands of private school teachers in the UK, has called on Labour to make sure teachers are not “lost to the system” as a result of the policy.

He said: “We don’t want more teachers being lost to the system. We want more teachers in the system. That is what we desperately need.

“Just like parents will be concerned about the fate for their children, we are concerned about our members.”

Labour plans to use the money raised by the policy to fund plans including the recruitment of 6,500 more teachers and putting mental health counsellors in every secondary school if it gains power.

Mr Roach said: “We do have a concern, at the bottom of all of that, about recognising the right for those schools to exist, for them to be treated appropriately, that if these changes are to take place under a new government that would need to be carefully managed to ensure that actually we don’t create more of a problem to the government’s ambitions to fund more teachers, more breakfast clubs.

“There’s a roll call of what a new government would want to be doing with that income, which it may not be able to do if those schools go to the wall.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Labour will invest in delivering a brilliant state education for all our children, funded by ending tax breaks for private schools.

“Independent schools do not have to pass this change onto parents and a high-profile independent school has already said they will not be doing so.”