Rugby School head attacks Labour's VAT change for private schools

The next general election is some way off but a Labour party policy to raise extra money by removing a key tax benefit from private schools has come under fire from a key player in the sector – and the town.
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Head master of Rugby School Gareth Parker-Jones wrote a forthright piece on the prospect for Spear’s, a magazine and website that describes itself as, ‘a must-read for the ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) community’.

The article – published in May – got picked up my mainstream media, outlining how he believed a seemingly popular policy to end the VAT exemption and raise £1.7billion by adding the tax to school fees was flawed.

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He said the analysis ignored the reality of the impact it would have on the ability of ‘some hard-working parents’ to afford the fees and would see them switch their children to the ‘already stretched state education sector’.

Rugby School head master Gareth Parker-Jones.Rugby School head master Gareth Parker-Jones.
Rugby School head master Gareth Parker-Jones.

He claimed private schools had a dual impact – a boost to the economy and by providing paces for pupils who would otherwise need place in the state system.

Mr Parker-Jones voiced his concerns over the policy in a statement to the Advertiser this week, highlighting his school’s input to the wider Rugby community: “The Labour Party's plans to levy additional taxes on independent schools ignores the many ways in which those schools contribute to their local communities.

“More than 200 local children attend Rugby School as day students, of whom more than 60 have foundation awards which, as a result of the bequest of the school's founder, Lawrence Sheriff, are means tested up to the value of 100 per cent.

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“Moreover, Rugby School and Bilton Grange play an important part in the local economy, not least by employing 730 people (£21.6m per annum).

"In addition, both schools engage in extensive local partnerships," he added.

“For example, every June around 1,000 local primary school pupils attend our Festival on the Close, a celebration of the creative arts including live performances and practical workshops.

“It is deeply disappointing that the Labour Party plans to adopt a policy that will do nothing to improve education and may even do considerable damage.”

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