Saturday, 18 May 2024

Labour's Pledge: Closing the 'VAT Loophole' on Private School Fees

Labour's Pledge: Closing the 'VAT Loophole' on Private School Fees
Tuesday, 09 January 2024 21:44

Labour Vows to Close VAT Loophole on Private School Fees

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, has announced Labour's intention to prevent parents from circumventing VAT on private school fees, particularly through the practice of paying for years of education upfront. Under Labour's proposed legislation, which would impose a 20% VAT on fees, Phillipson asserts that the party aims to craft legislation without loopholes, ensuring that parents cannot avoid paying the tax.

Concerns have been raised by schools, warning of potential closures, as tens of thousands of pupils in England could be priced out of private education under a Labour government. The policy implies that parents paying average non-boarding secondary school fees of approximately £17,600 per year might need to find an extra £3,500 per child.

Some schools have advised parents that they could potentially bypass VAT payments under a future Labour government by prepaying for years of their child's education. Phillipson, however, asserted that Labour would design the legislation to prevent such avoidance, citing a precedent set by George Osborne in 2010 when he raised the standard rate of VAT to 20% from 17.5%. Osborne's "anti-forestalling provisions" aimed at preventing lower-rate application to pre-payments, serving as a model for Labour's approach.

In response to Labour's plans, David Woodgate, the chief executive of the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association, expressed skepticism. He emphasized that the number of parents using advance fee schemes is small, suggesting that Labour's focus on this niche issue exploits stereotypes about independent schools. Woodgate argues that attention should be directed towards families paying school fees annually from taxed income, as they would be the ones most significantly impacted by Labour's proposed tax on education.

Labour's Phillipson Criticizes Government Over School Attendance Crisis

During a speech at the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think tank in London, Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, accused the government of not taking the school attendance crisis seriously, particularly when it involves "other people's children." Phillipson emphasized that the attendance crisis isn't about prestigious schools like Winchester, Charterhouse, Eton, or Rugby but rather affects ordinary children.

Addressing the alarming rise in pupils regularly missing school since the pandemic, Phillipson highlighted specific cases, such as a school in Hastings with over 47% of children persistently absent and one in Knowsley with over 50%. Describing the situation as a "disaster," she expressed support for using fines to tackle school absences, criticizing parents who permit their children to skip school for reasons like "cheaper holidays" and "birthday treats.

Phillipson outlined Labour's proposals to address the issue, including the introduction of a new identifying number, akin to the NHS number, to consolidate children's records across various services. Labour aims to establish a national register of non-attending children and leverage artificial intelligence to identify absence trends for better coordination between education, social care, and support services for families.

In her quest to position Labour as the party championing "high standards" in education, Phillipson praised Michael Gove for bringing energy and determination during his tenure as education secretary (2010-2014), despite disagreements over certain reforms. She criticized the recent turnover of education secretaries, emphasizing a lack of priority given to education.

On the same day, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan declared tackling poor attendance as her top priority, coinciding with the Department for Education's national initiative to address persistent absence. The spotlight on school attendance underscores the urgency and cross-party acknowledgment of the challenges faced by the education system in the aftermath of the pandemic.

CSJ Poll Reveals Significant Parental Belief: Nearly 30% Don't Deem Daily School Attendance Essential

In the aftermath of a poll conducted on behalf of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a striking revelation emerged: almost three in 10 parents do not consider it essential for their children to attend school every day. The findings underscore a concerning perspective among a notable portion of the parent population, challenging the widely held belief in the crucial role of daily school attendance.

The poll's results add fuel to the ongoing debate surrounding school attendance and its perceived importance, as voiced by Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, during her recent speech at the CSJ think tank. Phillipson criticized the government for not adequately addressing the crisis in school attendance, emphasizing that the issue is often dismissed when it involves "other people's children.

The acknowledgment of a sizable portion of parents devaluing daily school attendance raises questions about the factors contributing to this viewpoint. It also highlights the challenges faced by policymakers and educators in reinforcing the significance of consistent school attendance, particularly in the context of ongoing efforts to address the attendance crisis in the wake of the pandemic.

The findings from the CSJ poll add nuance to the broader conversation on education and attendance, prompting further exploration of parental attitudes, potential barriers to consistent attendance, and the implications for educational policies aimed at fostering a culture of regular school participation.

Navigating Challenges in Perceptions of School Attendance

The revelation from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) poll, indicating that almost 30% of parents don't view daily school attendance as essential, adds a layer of complexity to the ongoing discourse on education. This finding, presented amid concerns raised by Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, underscores the challenges in shaping perceptions and priorities related to consistent school attendance.

As policymakers and educators grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic and the attendant attendance crisis, understanding parental attitudes becomes crucial. The poll prompts a deeper exploration into the factors influencing these perspectives, shedding light on potential barriers and underlying issues that contribute to the belief that daily school attendance may not be indispensable.

In navigating these challenges, education stakeholders must consider a multifaceted approach, addressing not only the practical aspects of attendance but also the broader societal and cultural factors shaping parental viewpoints. This revelation serves as a call to action, encouraging further research, dialogue, and policy development to foster a collective understanding of the significance of regular school participation. Ultimately, it emphasizes the need for collaborative efforts to promote a shared commitment to the importance of education and consistent attendance in shaping the future of our students.

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