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Labour commits to abolishing private schools if it wins the next general election

4 min read

Labour's manifesto for the next general election will contain a pledge to abolish all private schools by bringing them into the state system.

Delegates at the party's annual conference in Brighton voted overwhelmingly to "integrate" them by scrapping tax breaks and seizing their assets.

Campaigners hailed the move as "a huge step forward in dismantling the privilege of a tiny, Eton-educated elite who are running our country into the ground".

Earlier, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner had stopped short of committing the party to wholesale abolition of private schools if Labour wins the next election.

Instead, she said the first Budget of the next Labour government would "immediately close the tax loopholes used by elite private schools and use that money to improve the lives of all children".

However, the motion passed by Labour conference went much further.

It said the next Labour manifesto should include a "commitment to integrate all private schools into the state sector".

That would see the "withdrawal of charitable status and all other public subsidies and tax privileges, including business rate exemption", the motion said.

It also demanded that universities only admit 7% of students from private schools, to reflect the proportion of all pupils who attend them.

The motion also called for "endowments, investments and properties held by private schools to be redistributed democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions".

The move to scrap private schools was spearheaded by the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting campaign group Momentum.

Laura Parker, the group's national co-ordinator, said: "This is a huge step forward in dismantling the privilege of a tiny, Eton-educated elite who are running our country into the ground.

"Every child deserves a world class education, not only those who are able pay for it, and I’ll be proud to campaign on this manifesto pledge at the next election.” 

Holly Rigby, a spokesperson for the 'Abolish Eton' campaign, said: "We are delighted that Labour has committed to integrating all private schools into the state sector and that it will feature in the next manifesto.

"This huge leap forward is a testament to the hard work of grassroots Labour members and the ambition and determination of Angela Rayner and John McDonnell.

"They have worked with and listened to members every step of the way, writing this policy hand in hand with the movement. This is what a democratic Labour Party look like. We will dismantle systems of privilege and inequality and build a society that works for the millions and not the millionaires."


Speaking to PoliticsHome as the radical policy was backed, shadow schools minister Mike Kane said he believed voters were "angry" with years of cuts to the state sector.

"After eight years of austerity, we see privilege for a few and austerity for the many, and I think that is why we have come to this point," he said at a fringe event hosted by the NASUWT union.

"We see private schools not employing qualified teachers, we see them exploiting the loopholes of their tax arrangements, and the policy that we have had and still continue to profess is removing their charitable status, because we know that these private schools are not charitable concerns, and that still remains Labour policy."

But the shadow minister acknowledged that Labour's finance team would need to start working up plans to fund the pledge.

"I think the key thing first is our Treasury team need to work out our costings around our existing commitments in our 2017 manifesto, which was to close the charitable status for private schools, which was to raise enough money to pay for free school meals for all children... So I think that will be for our Treasury team to answer directly about how we will begin to do that."

Asked whether the move could lead to either tax rises or cuts to other areas of Labour's budget plans, Mr Kane told PoliticsHome: "I would have thought that would be unlikely, we are talking about only around half-a-million to 600,000 children in 2,000 schools so it is not going to be huge, and ultimately we have already seen a number of private schools come into the state system by academising.

"I will leave that to our Treasury team to give exact costings. But I do not see it as a binary process, over the period of a Labour government, that suddenly it will happen on day one. We will have to see how we work with the private school system to get it integrated more fully with the national school system and the Department of Education."

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