Private schools would have to do more for state school children or lose charity tax breaks, Labour warns

Some 2,570 fee-charging schools can currently claim up to 80 per cent in their business rates due to their charitable status

Click to follow

British private schools are perpetuating divisions that “corrode society” and “damage the economy”, the shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has said, warning that such schools that fail to do more to help children from the state sector could stand to lose millions of pounds in tax breaks under a Labour government.

Should Labour win in 2015, private schools that do not actively do more to help those in the state sector could be blocked from accessing business rate relief worth more than £150 million annually to more than 2,000 such institutions. “The next government will say to them: step up and play your part. Earn your keep, Mr Hunt writes in The Guardian. “Because the time you could expect something for nothing is over,”

Some 2,570 fee-charging schools can currently claim up to 80 per cent in their business rates due to their charitable status.

Under plans being drawn up by Ed Miliband, Labour would seek amend the 1988 Local Government Act, making business rate relief conditional on a school signing a partnership agreement with state schools under a strict set of new standards.

In a withering attack on the moderate uptake among private schools to co-operate with the state sector, Mr Hunt - who himself was educated at the private University College School in North London –  writes: “Created in a culture of philanthropy and Christian duty, too many independent schools have become barriers to British educational success. The division between state and private education corrodes our society, stifles opportunity and, by wasting talent, inflicts damage upon our economy. Some private schools want to overcome this division, but most do not. It is time to stop asking politely.”

Mr Hunt claims too many private schools are currently providing token benefits to their communities such as three-hour-a-day entrance to art exhibitions, the hiring out of a hall or infrequent use of a football field.

According to The Guardian, Labour plans would see fee-paying institutions held to a “Schools Partnership Standard” that would require them to provide qualified teachers in specialist subjects to state schools, a sharing of expertise to help state school students get into top universities and joint extracurricular programmes that would encourage pupils of different levels and abilities mix and learn from each other. Last night Barnaby Lennon, the chairman of the Independent Schools Council said that the stripping of business rate relief would be “a very ineffective tool to improve social mobility in any meaningful way”.