Education unions have privately expressed concerns to the Labour party about their plan to impose a 20% VAT on private schools, as revealed by The Telegraph. The unions worry that this policy might lead to job losses for teachers and could force schools to downgrade their pension offers to staff.
Labour’s proposal includes adding VAT to independent school fees and removing the relief they receive on business rates, aiming to generate £1.7 billion. This revenue is intended to recruit 6,500 teachers for state schools and provide mental health counseling in every school.
In private meetings with Labour representatives, education unions emphasized the potential impact on their members employed in independent schools. They are primarily concerned about job security and the possibility of redundancies resulting from the policy.
Additionally, the unions are worried about the status of private schools within the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS). Independent schools can be members of the TPS, but over 300 private schools have withdrawn from it since 2018. The uncertainty surrounding employer costs, the cost of living crisis, and potential government changes have led some schools to consider altering teachers’ terms and conditions of service, including opting out of the TPS.
The unions have conveyed their concerns to Labour, highlighting the implications of the policy. These warnings are significant because the education unions, although politically unaffiliated, have historically leaned left. While the Association of School and College Leaders has publicly criticized the VAT policy, other unions have pledged to oppose any job losses or changes to their members’ pay and conditions resulting from the policy.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of ASCL, pointed out that many independent schools might not be able to absorb the fee increase and could face closure. He urged Labour to conduct a thorough risk assessment to ensure there are enough places in the state sector if schools do close.
Patrick Roach, the general secretary of NASUWT, emphasized the importance of a fair tax system but expressed concern about potential school closures and teacher shortages. He vowed to fight for the job security and terms and conditions of his members.
Daniel Kebede, the general secretary of the National Education Union, stressed the need to defend members’ jobs. He warned schools contemplating withdrawal from the TPS that such actions could lead to strike action.
In summary, education unions are urging Labour to consider the potential consequences of their VAT policy on private schools, emphasizing the importance of job security and fair treatment for their members. They are calling for a careful evaluation of the policy’s impact to safeguard teachers’ jobs and maintain the quality of education in both private and state schools.