If you read the Times newspaper, you might well have read Michael Gove’s piece today about why he thinks independent schools should be forced to add VAT to school fees rather than avoid them due to their charitable status. I for one find it sad that Mr Gove, who was himself privately educated (Robert Gordon’s), couldn’t make his argument without resorting to tabloid style journalism, referring to independent school parents as typically either “Oligarchs or Plutocrats”, and an almost complete avoidance of facts.
It is true that independent schools as a whole benefit from charitable status to the tune of £150 million a year. However, they ‘pay’ for this benefit by providing in the region of £350 million in free or subsidised places and engage in 1,550 partnerships with state schools each year benefiting 160,000 state school students each year.
There is no doubt, in my mind, that removing charitable status would be hugely counter-productive, for both the independent and state school sectors and, significantly, for the taxpayer. Indeed, if those independent school which rely upon this charitable status to make the books balance were to close, their pupils would join the state sector bringing the £5,500-a-year cost per state school pupil on to the taxpayer (for Craigclowan pupils alone this would cost the taxpayer in the region of £1.2 million). Research from Oxford Economics in 2014 found that the saving to the taxpayer from the 500,000 pupils in Independent Schools Council schools not being in state education is worth £3 billion, while the tax revenues generated by these schools is £3.6 billion. ISC schools additionally contribute £9.5 billion to the UK economy and the sector supports well over 200,000 jobs in the UK.
So, in reply to Michael Gove I’d just like to say…be careful what you wish for as I’m not sure your government would thank you.
If you’d like to express your views to Mr Gove, he can be found on Twitter @michaelgove
John F Gilmour
With thanks to the ISC for their research, facts and continued support.