Should we scrap tax breaks for private schools?

Tristram Hunt is a clever guy, which is why he must know that he is talking a load of crap about private schools, equality and tax.

It must have been quite painful for him to write his piece in the Guardian today, firstly because he must know he has opened himself up to accusations of hypocrisy and secondly because what he’s threatening won’t work, can’t work.

First the hypocrisy. Hunt is an old boy of University College School in Hampstead, part of the Eton Group of elite public schools and then went on to read history at Cambridge. His own rags riches to riches story also reminds us of the legion of Labour politicians who slag off private schools and then send their own kids to one when they think no one is looking.

But it is the second point that I wanted to focus on. Let’s look at what would actually happen if he changed the tax status of private schools.

An increase in the tax burden would affect private schools in one of two ways. The smaller, less well known schools might find it hard to shoulder the additional cost and to not have the brand power to increase their fees to match the increase in costs. They would most likely go out of business.

The more spiteful members of the Left would cheer, no doubt, right up until the point that the former pupils of those private school started to demand places at local state schools. These children would bring no additional funding as their parents already pay through their taxes those school place that their children didn’t take up.

I work closely with a couple of state schools and I know how difficult it would be to absorb dozens of extra children with no extra funds. The education of all the kids would suffer. Well done Mr Hunt.

There other type of private school, the internationally famous schools like Eton and Harrow (and indeed Mr Hunt’s own UCS) would simply put their fees up and absorb the increased tax burden. It won’t generate very much tax because there aren’t very many of those schools, it certainly won’t cover the cost of the new influx into the state system.

And let’s think for a moment who will be educated by this tiny number of ultra expensive global education brands. It won’t be kids like me, whose parents started paying for my education while they were living in my grandparents’ back bedroom in Catford. It will only be the children of the very international billionaires Tristram vilifies in his article.

As I say Tristram Hunt isn’t stupid but he is making himself look daft with this siren song to the educational establishment’s left wing faction. There is much that could be done to improve education in this country, Hunt’s problem is that Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan have been doing it.

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