VAT on private school fees would drive away quarter of pupils, survey suggests

One in four parents would remove their children from private school if VAT is added to fees – as Labour has vowed to do, a poll has found.

Others plan to move house to be near a cheaper private school or to enable children who are boarding to switch to being day pupils, saving £10,000 a year or more.

Labour plans to add 20 per cent VAT to independent school fees if it wins the general election, estimating this will raise at least £1.6 billion to spend on state schools.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

But some experts say that with VAT added to fees, fewer parents would choose private education so the money raised could be less than predicted, and high numbers of pupils switching to state schools would mean extra costs for the education budget.

The survey, reported by The Times and conducted to accompany the latest Saltus Wealth Index report, questioned 2,000 people with investable assets of more than £250,000, finding that 71 per cent thought that rising school fees would affect their choices over private schooling in future.

Some 26 per cent of parents said they would have to take their children out of independent schools if VAT was imposed.

Half said they would be able to keep their children in private education but would have to make changes that could entail moving house.

Eton College (Getty Images)
Eton College (Getty Images)

One in five said they would have to borrow more to afford rising school fees, which rose by an average of 5.6 per cent in 2022-23.

Mike Stimpson, partner at Saltus, said: “Private school fees are likely to rise by a further 5 per cent this September. If Labour wins the next general election and carries out its pledge to impose Vat on school fees, we could see the cost of private tuition rise by at least a further 20 per cent in years to come.”

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said: “We are particularly concerned about the disruption to education for children receiving special educational needs support, for military families and for those choosing faith schools.

“We would welcome the chance to work with Labour on more productive ways of reaching our shared goal of a great education for every child.”