The last Labour manifesto said a Labour government would impose VAT on independent school fees, The Times wrote on 16 September (behind paywall). The paper suggested an ‘Action plan’ for parents with children at private schools: pop along to see the bursar and discuss paying fees in advance.
I’ve a better idea which would not just save VAT but all school fees as well. Send your child to a state school.
There are advantages to being educated outside a private school bubble. Your child would meet pupils from a full range of backgrounds not just kids like them. This would widen their outlook – an essential quality for any aspiring doctor, judge or politician.
Your child might meet some delinquents, of course, who indulge in anti-social behaviour. But this is equally true of independent schools. According to the Tatler, Oxford University’s secret drinking clubs are stuffed full of alumni from public schools. I’m sure responsible parents don’t regard the antics of these mainly male groups as youthful high jinks because the perpetrators are posh when such behaviour from any other group would rightly be deemed unacceptable.
Independent schools constantly publicise their results. But high outcomes in exams are because most of the so-called ‘elite’ schools are highly selective. And when they get to university, privately-educated pupils are likely to be outperformed by equally-qualified pupils from state schools.
You will know, of course, that concern is increasing about the disproportionate number of privately-educated pupils who end up in ‘top’ jobs. This is not only seen as unfair but also a waste of talent. University admission tutors are considering ways in which to attract more state-educated pupils.
It’s true that many private schools have impressive extra-curricula activities. But these are more likely found in independent schools that are boarding. The schools have to do something with their boarders when other children and young people are at home with their families experiencing the rough-and-tumble of normal family life.
Private schools are not better than state schools. Even the Tatler admitted that in its first guide to state schools:
‘...your child gets a better preparation for the real world, the one where not everything is handed to them on a sterling-silver platter, where there is a cosmopolitan mix, where you will have to fight to get to the top. And best of all, when you do finally get into the Cabinet, everyone will love you because you didn't go to Eton.’
Tongue-in-cheek, the Tatler’s last sentence may be. But the mag makes an important point. It costs £600k (£1.2m before tax) to put two children through the independent school system. VAT on top of that would greatly increase the cost. It makes economic as well as educational sense to avoid private schools. Send your child to a state school instead.