Private schools must boost care places to protect against Labour closures, Tory minister says
Private schools should fend off Labour plans to "abolish" them by handing out places to thousands of children in care, a Tory minister has said.
Education Minister Nadim Zahawi said providing opportunities for children to improve their life chances would leave Jeremy Corbyn unable strip independent schools of their charitable status.
Labour vowed to scrap VAT-free school fees in their 2017 election manifesto.
Mr Zahawi told BBC Newsnight: “I think schools that are independent in this country need to think about what more they can do… It’s an ideal opportunity to come and help deliver the greatest outcome.
“It is incumbent on all of us in a country as civilised, as wealthy as our country – we should be providing the best opportunities for these kids, not simply managing them.”
He praised the decision by 40 independent schools to take part in a government-backed scheme to provide places for children in the care of a local authority.
The Boarding School Partnership sees local authorities stump up 60% of individual fees at leading private schools like Eton College and Rugby School, while the school provides the other 40% in the form of a bursary.
The Education Minister added: “If the independent sector becomes embedded in the infrastructure that delivers the best outcome to these kids there is no better way than them making the argument for their charitable status, for their VAT exemptions. And Mr Corbyn would never be able to abolish them.”
Meanwhile, Francis Green, from the Centre for Global Higher Education, said private schools needed to do more to keep their status.
“I would be in favour of a broader scheme that would partially integrate the schools into the state education system”, he told the same show.
“So that, for example, one-third of their place would be paid for by the state at the same rate as the state pays for education [for] all other children and they would choose who goes to those schools.
“It wouldn’t at all be an abolition of the private schools, the schools would retain their independent governance, and their independence from local authorities and so on and so forth, but they would be obliged to begin to socially integrate so they are not just bastions of privilege.”