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Artillery Row

Defend Christian private schools

Keir Starmer’s tax raid would be bad for children, parents and the state

Labour has said that if it wins the general election it will, “remove tax breaks for private schools”. We hear this popular soundbite trotted out by all of their spokespeople. Keir Starmer has pledged he will add new taxes to all private schools, no matter how large or how expensive, introducing for the first time the standard VAT rate of 20 per cent to school fees. They believe that the rich should be taxed and that independent schools have been given too much freedom from state taxation. But such schools are in reality, propping up the state.

Christian parents have often removed their children from state schools due to the sexualising and secularising influences which now abound. We regularly highlight this through our legal cases and in our resources. Many have moved to private schools, because of bullying due to their faith. This victimisation may have come not only from pupils but from ideologically driven teachers and leaders who despise traditional Christian beliefs. These children need to be nurtured in schools which have a culture built from a biblical worldview.

Some need to move their children due to the toxic atmosphere among the peer groups in their local state school, where they may have experienced violence, sexting, abuse or harassment. Those with SEND or behavioural needs often require smaller private settings to even be able to face going to school. Parents scrimp and save to provide this desperately needed alternative for their children. 

Is it any surprise that many Christians have now chosen to send their children to low-cost Christ-centred private schools, or other schools which offer bursaries, which receive no financial support from the state and require fees. The proportion of these family’s taxes which would otherwise be used for their child’s state education, ends up benefiting the children of others who remain in state schools. The children from private schools are not, therefore, a burden on the already under pressure state provision. Many are in classes of over 30 pupils. 

In other nations such as Australia, the Netherlands or Germany, families have a percentage of their taxes returned to them to be used in the school of their choice. But in the UK, under a Labour government, families will remain without such a helpful reallocation of the taxes they pay, and will be additionally required to pay Value Added Tax on the fees they pay to schools. This unfairly penalises parents and will damage, even sink, some Christian schools, where families will be unable to afford the increase. 

Taxing these communities of people … would be unjust and would punish low and middle income Christian families

Education has historically been believed to be a charitable objective, improving the lives and opportunities of children, and not something to be taxed. Labour seem to disagree. They originally wanted to remove the charitable status of private schools, but eventually recognised this would be illegal to do so and impossible in practice. Private schools often offer bursaries to poorer families and function on a wide range of financial models. Low-cost Christian private schools often require much parent volunteering, highly sacrificial salary levels from the staff, and receive generous gifts from churches through low rental on buildings or direct grants. This keeps the costs low to parents. Taxing these communities of people, who are not the privileged rich of expensive schools such as Eton, would be unjust and would punish low and middle income Christian families.

This policy would also be counter productive. If the predicted number of parents are forced to send their children to their local state school, then the financial costs, year on year, to the state would steadily increase and put additional pressure on those state schools. Many of the SEND pupils who are educated so well in small low-cost Christian schools would have to be provided for in an already crumbling system, where so many are being failed.

The 6,500 teachers that Labour say they will put into schools due to what they will raise from this increase in taxes result in about a quarter of a teacher in every one of the around 25,000 existing state schools. 

The research on the low cost Christian private schools, such as those in the Christian Schools Trust studied by Dr Sylvia Baker, demonstrates that in a setting where Jesus is worshipped, and remains the focus in all subject areas, this supports young people with a fantastic preparation for life, making them model members of society. This is why we are supporting so many groups across the nation to begin new truly Christ-centred schools.  

This policy is discriminatory towards Christian groups who are the main provider of independent education in this country. It is counter productive due to the additional pressures it will create on state schools. It will result in huge disruption and financial pressure to the low and middle income families who attend small low cost independent Christian schools. 

Challenge any Labour candidate with these issues. The so-called “tax breaks” are nothing of the sort. Defining the education of children as something worthy of taxation is a dangerous misstep for our nation and any future government. Tell Labour candidates that they must stop this tax raid on Christian families and small Christian institutions. If they do not row back on this policy or significantly nuance it with tax thresholds for smaller schools, they should not be supported in their education policy.

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