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Antony Antoniou – Reform UK Northampton North
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
(PPC) 2024 General Election

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Parents Rush to Pull Children from private schools

Parents Rush to Pull Children from Private Schools as Labour Vows Immediate Fee Hike

In a move that has sent shockwaves through the private education sector, families across the nation are scrambling to withdraw their children from fee-paying schools or expedite the payment of tuition fees. This comes in response to Sir Keir Starmer’s pledge to impose a punitive tax raid on private education institutions from “day one” should Labour emerge victorious in the forthcoming general election.

The reverberations of Labour’s proposed policy have already begun to ripple through the hallowed halls of Britain’s independent schools. Esteemed headteachers have revealed to The Telegraph that an alarming number of parents are hastily cancelling enrolments for the upcoming September term, gripped by fears that a Labour government could be in power before the start of the summer holidays.

Others, in a desperate bid to circumvent the impending financial burden, are racing against the clock to settle their children’s tuition fees well in advance of the looming election date of July 4th – a date that has taken many by surprise, having initially anticipated an autumn poll.

Starmer’s Resolute Stance on “Straight Away” Tax Hike

Sir Keir Starmer has doubled down on Labour’s commitment to applying VAT to private education fees “straight away” upon assuming office. When confronted by BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and questioned whether this contentious plan would be implemented on “day one” of a Labour government, the opposition leader remained unflinching, stating: “As soon as it can be done. It is a question of the timetable in Parliament. But these steps are intended to be done straight away.”

Families Flee, Headteachers Lament

The consequences of this proposed policy shift are already manifesting, with Silas Edmonds, the principal at the prestigious Ewell Castle School in Surrey, bearing witness to an exodus of pupils. According to Edmonds, parents of children with confirmed places for the upcoming September term have begun withdrawing their enrolments, citing grave concerns over the anticipated cost escalation and pervasive uncertainty.

“Several year seven families and families of pupils who would have been taking places in sixth form have withdrawn because they are just too worried about this additional cost,” lamented the headteacher of the £20,193-a-year institution.

In a bid to prepare for the potential fallout, Edmonds has written to parents this week, following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s unexpected announcement, warning them that while the school is “hoping for the best,” they are simultaneously “preparing for the worst” should Labour claim victory at the ballot box.

“We are looking at our finances to see if there is any kind of buffer we can build in to meet parents halfway, but it is going to be tough. I’m really hoping they [Labour] will see sense and realise it’s actually going to cost the Government long term,” Edmonds implored.

Advance Fee Payments Surge Amid Uncertainty

Moreover, the principal has observed a marked uptick in the number of parents rushing to pay tuition fees upfront, a trend he attributes to the mounting sense of trepidation surrounding the potential policy shift.

“We’ve had a fees-in-advance scheme for a while now because we have been doing horizon scanning, and we saw this coming down the tracks, so we have had a few parents who have already taken advantage of that,” Edmonds elucidated. “A few more have enquired in the past week or two. I suspect there will be more next week.”

Concerns Ripple Through the Sector

The apprehension is palpable across the independent education sector, with Anthony Oulton, principal at Hulme Private Grammar School in Manchester, voicing grave concerns about the potential revocation of acceptance letters in the wake of Labour’s proposed measures.

“I do wonder and worry about how many parents with offers for September starts might contact us in the next week. There is just so much uncertainty about this; it’s really, really unhelpful,” Oulton bemoaned.

At Hulme Grammar School, approximately a third of the student body receives bursaries, while a “good number” are beneficiaries of fully paid scholarships. Last year alone, the institution allocated a staggering £750,000 to support pupils from lower-income families, enabling them to access a private education.

Parental Panic and Uncertain Futures

A report by wealth manager Saltus last week revealed a sobering statistic: more than a quarter of parents intend to withdraw their children from private schools and enrol them in local state institutions should Labour’s VAT levy come into effect.

Among those grappling with this agonising decision is Loveena Tandon, a 44-year-old mother of two hailing from India. Tandon, whose children currently attend private schools in London and Surrey, has conceded that she is actively considering “all options” in light of the potential fee hike.

Tandon’s calculations have led her to a staggering realisation: a 20% rise in tuition fees would necessitate her finding an additional £14,000 per term – a burden she fears may be insurmountable.

“I am going to be having conversations with my parents, with my mother and sister in Mumbai, and we are going to have serious conversations about the possibilities there [in India] and also going to be looking at possibilities in the state sector,” Tandon confided. “I will also look at what I can do with my career.”

The ripple effect of Labour’s proposed policy is already reverberating through parental circles, with Tandon revealing that “a lot of parents are already inquiring about state schools. Everyone is doing whatever they can, but the bottom line is a big chunk of parents cannot afford this.”

Tandon’s plight is emblematic of the growing unease among families, some of whom are already grappling with the financial pressures of private education. “Some are already going to state schools and they are already feeling the pressure and crumbling,” she lamented.

Grassroots Resistance and Policy Backlash

In a defiant act of resistance, Tandon has joined forces with Education not Taxation, a grassroots campaign spearheaded by incensed parents seeking to compel Labour to reverse its contentious policy stance. The group’s petition, urging the opposition party to abandon the proposed VAT hike, has garnered a groundswell of support, surpassing 120,000 signatures, with a further 2,000 individuals pledging their backing in the past 24 hours alone.

David Woodgate, the chief executive of the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association, representing a staggering 1,100 private schools, has launched a scathing critique of Labour’s costing projections for the policy. Woodgate argues that the party has failed to account for the substantial cost to the state should tens of thousands of private school pupils be forced to migrate to the state sector.

Labour has claimed that the policy will generate £1.7 billion in revenue, with £1.6 billion stemming from the imposition of VAT and £100 million arising from the abolition of business rate relief. However, Woodgate contends that the “genuine real risk of an exodus of pupils into the state sector has not been factored into Labour’s numbers.”

“The figure could be well under £1 billion in reality, which is not very much money to fund the policies which Labour wants to fund from it,” he cautioned.

State School Capacity Concerns

Amidst the maelstrom of discontent, a Local Government Association spokesman has sounded a sobering warning to parents contemplating a last-minute exodus from private institutions, citing the risks associated with such a move.

“With 80% of secondary schools now academies, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with demand. Councils have a legal duty to ensure capacity, but currently have no powers to open new secondary schools or direct academies to expand,” the spokesman elucidated.

The spokesman underscored the fundamental principle that “every child should have a fair chance of getting into their parents’ preferred school,” emphasising that councils and schools alike “work extremely hard to try and ensure that as many pupils as possible are allocated their first preference.”

However, the spokesman’s remarks were punctuated by an urgent call for reform: “This ruling needs to be amended as soon as possible to ensure as many children as possible get the places they want.”

As the nation hurtles towards the pivotal general election, the private education sector finds itself embroiled in a maelstrom of uncertainty, with families grappling with agonising decisions and the prospect of upheaval looming large on the horizon. Whether Labour’s proposed policies will withstand the groundswell of parental opposition remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the reverberations of this contentious issue will continue to echo through the hallowed halls of Britain’s independent schools for the foreseeable future.

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