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Tory minister ridiculed for claiming private school costs same as family holiday

Parents ‘forego luxury’ of trip abroad to send kids to fee-paying schools, says Gillian Keegan

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 18 July 2023 09:17 BST
Tory minister claims private school costs same as family holiday

Education secretary Gillian Keegan has been attacked for claiming the cost of sending a child to private school is the same as a family summer holiday abroad.

The cabinet minister made the comments in the Commons as she attacked Labour’s plan to end the charitable status enjoyed by the private school sector.

Speaking in the Commons, Keegan said: “Most of our private schools aren’t like Eton or Harrow – they’re far smaller and they charge a lot less.”

″Many cost the same as a family holiday abroad and there’s plenty of parents who choose to forego life’s luxuries to give their children these opportunities.”

Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Philipson pointed out that average private school fees are around £16,000 a year – far outstripping the average holiday cost.

“It’s not just Rishi Sunak that hasn’t got a clue,” tweeted the Labour frontbencher. “What planet are this lot on?”

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) says the average private school fees across the UK were £15,200 last year. This is £7,200 or nearly 90 per cent higher than state school spending per pupil, which was £8,000 in 2022–23.

Labour has said that end charity status for private schools would raise around £1.7bn, since they institutions would have to start paying VAT of around 20 per cent.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party have pledged to spend the extra money on boosting state education by recruiting more staff in subjects such as maths and physics.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan under fire over private school comments (PA Wire)

But Ms Keegan insisted that “Labour’s tax hikes are nothing more than the politics of envy”.

The education secretary added: “As Margaret Thatcher once said, ‘The spirit of envy can only destroy, it can never build’.”

It comes as Ms Keegan faces pressure to finally set out the government’s trans guidance for schools, with fears it could be delayed once again until after parliament’s summer recess.

Despite promises that it would published before the end of school term, Mr Sunak is said to be examining the detail of the proposed guidance to make sure it complies with legislation.

Reports suggest that schools will be forced to tell parents if students are questioning their gender.

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch appeared to conform that plan at the weekend, saying the guidance would will ensure parents know what is “going on with their children”.

She told the BBC: “There’s quite a lot of confusion about what the law says and it is important that parents are aware of what’s going on with their children and what’s happening to them at school, so what we’re doing is making sure we have robust guidance that’s going to be able to stand up to scrutiny.”

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