How one Gloucestershire school plans to mitigate 'unfair' school fee increases if Labour wins election

With The Labour Party planning to introduce VAT on independent school fees if it wins the next general election, The King's School Gloucester promises to do everything it can to mitigate fee increases for local families, which the headmaster describes as an 'illogical and unfair way to find funding for state schools'.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
The King's School Gloucester's headmaster, David Morton, believes that while increasing funding for state schools is important, Labour's plan to tax independent school fees isn't the right way to achieve it.

Gloucestershire independent school, The King's School Gloucester, is pledging to do everything it can to mitigate rising costs for local parents if the government starts charging VAT on school fees.

The Labour Party has said it will charge 20 per cent VAT on independent school fees, investing the revenue into state education, if it wins the next general election. 

Many independent schools may pass this increase directly on to parents, but a national survey shows that over 20 per cent of parents whose children are currently at an independent school would move to a local education authority (LEA) school if fees go up.

With a shortage of available LEA school places, especially in Gloucestershire, the move could put more pressure on schools which are already overstretched. 

For The King's School Gloucester that number may be even higher, with up to 40 per cent of parents saying their children might have to leave the school if fees increased by 20 per cent.

King's headmaster, David Morton, and his team have proactively prepared a plan from September 2024, to make incremental savings across the school without compromising its high educational standards, to protect parents from the full extent of the increase.

Some of the measures include a one year freeze on department budgets and staff reshuffles to best serve the current student body, which will allow the school to continue investing in facilities and improvements, while increasing its annual school fees by just four per cent in 2024.

If Labour wins the election and implements its plans, King's will then increase fees by a further nine per cent in 2025 — still lower than the full 20 per cent. 

While some independent schools are owned and operated as profit-making businesses, The King's School Gloucester is a charity, so any profits the school makes are reinvested — and according to its parent surveys, the children who attend the school come from diverse backgrounds, many with working parents paying the school fees out of their own income; with a significant proportion whose income is less than £50,000 per year. 

The King's School Gloucester also offers bursaries for local children whose families can't afford school fees, as well as a variety of scholarships for talented individuals, perhaps most notably its Choral Scholarships for singers who want to join the Gloucester Cathedral choir — a tradition that King's is particularly proud of and has been facilitating for 500 years. 

While David agrees that LEA schools certainly need more investment from the government, he thinks funding this through taxing independent school fees is not the answer. 

He said: 'The outcome of the 2024 general election currently looks like a foregone conclusion, and we anticipate the Labour Party coming to power later this year. As headmaster and trustees of a charity and school which has thrived for 483 years, the governors and I take our responsibilities seriously: we cannot afford to wait for the election outcome before we take action.

'Anyone who works in education would applaud Labour’s stated ambition of increasing investment in state-maintained schools. However, the repeated Labour promise that they will add a 20 per cent tax onto independent school fees is an illogical and unfair way to find funding for state schools.

'King’s parents are typically very hard-working and make significant sacrifices to pay school fees — they are not the super-rich that the Labour Party portrays. Our parents already pay taxes for a state school education which they do not use, so adding VAT on to school fees is punitive and unfair.

'Additionally, the school supports pupils from a wide range of backgrounds to the tune of around £1.5 million every year through scholarships and bursaries. The Labour Party’s proposal to add 20 per cent onto school fees is simply unaffordable for the majority of our families.'

David said he believes the government has a choice on how it allocates the money brought in through taxation and that prioritising education and the NHS, rather than increasing investment on military capability, for example, which recently saw spending increase to 2.5 per cent, would be a better use of the money it already has.

He also suggested that there may be other, perhaps more controversial, moves which could be made, such as considering means-tested contributions from parents whose children attend grammar schools; or a windfall tax on independent schools which are run as businesses, to protect schools with charitable status, like The King's School Gloucester, and especially smaller, specialist schools such as Edward Jenner School in Gloucester for which a 20 per cent increase in fees could be catastrophic. 

No date has been set for the 2024 general election yet, but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that it will likely happen in the second half of the year. 

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