Labour has pledged to abolish all independent schools in the UK if it wins the next general election, following a motion passed by delegates at its annual conference on Sunday.
The opposition party has resolved to include a commitment in its next election manifesto to “integrate all private schools into the state sector”. This would be achieved by withdrawing charitable status, tax exemptions — including business rates — and all other public subsidies from private institutions.
A future Labour government would seek to implement the policy by initially ensuring that the proportion of students admitted to universities from private schools did not exceed their share of the overall school population, which currently stands at 7 per cent.
The party has also pledged to take control of “endowments, investments and properties held by private schools” and ensure they are redistributed “democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions”.
A senior Labour official confirmed that Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, would abide by the will of conference and include the pledge in the next manifesto. The policy to scrap independent schools has previously been endorsed by John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, who said “private schools don’t need to exist, and should not exist”.
Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary, also backed the move to close down private schools. In her conference address she said Labour would make “the whole education system fairer through the integration of private schools”.
Laura Parker, the national co-ordinator of Momentum — the grassroots activist group supporting Mr Corbyn’s leadership — welcomed the decision and said that she hoped the party would support other leftwing policies.
“This is a huge step forward in dismantling the privilege of a tiny, Eton-educated elite who are running our country into the ground”, she said. “Every child deserves a world class education, not only those who are able pay for it, and I’ll be proud to campaign on this manifesto pledge at the next election.”
Labour also pledged to abolish Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, which it described as “unfit for purpose”. It will instead introduce regular “health checks” led by local government, as well as full time inspectors. Ms Rayner said that Ofsted judgments frequently reflected on the “affluence” of a school.
“In too many cases, Ofsted’s judgments and grades reflect the affluence of a school’s intake and the social class of its pupils — not the performance of the school,” she said. “School performance is far too important and complex to be boiled down to an oversimplified single grade, reducing all schools to one of four categories.”
Gavin Williamson, education secretary, accused Labour of “putting ideology before the education of our children”.
“Parents will be rightly fearful of Corbyn’s plans to abolish independent inspections, scrap SATs and destroy academies and free schools. Labour would weaken discipline, lower standards and reduce choice and information for parents,” he said.
Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said: “Parents across the country have every right to be worried about the decision by Labour Party conference to support a motion to abolish independent schools. The move is an attack on the rights and freedoms of parents to make choices over the education of their children. Abolition would represent an act of national self-harm.”