Private schools could be abolished under a future Labour government, after members backed moves to “integrate” all such educational institutions into the state sector.
Labour delegates approved a motion which said such a commitment should be included in the party’s next general election manifesto.
This would include withdrawal of charitable status and “all other public subsidies and tax privileges”, including business rate exemption.
The motion added universities would have to admit the same proportion of private school students as in the wider population, currently 7%.
Endowments, investments and properties held by private schools would be “redistributed democratically and fairly” across the country’s educational institutions, it added.
The vote in favour of the motion came after shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said a future Labour government would scrap the “tax loopholes” which benefit private schools, in its first budget.
Addressing the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Ms Rayner said she will task the Social Mobility Commission – which the party would rename the Social Justice Commission – with “integrating private schools”.
She added: “We will set that commission to making the whole education system fairer through the integration of private schools.
“Myself and John McDonnell will set out further steps the Labour government will take, but I can say today that our very first budget will immediately close the tax loopholes used by elite private schools and use that money to improve the lives of all children.”
The motion on private schools, moved by Battersea Constituency Labour Party, said conference believes Labour “must go further” than the 2017 manifesto to challenge the “elite privilege” of private schools who “dominate the top professions”.
It added: “The ongoing existence of private schools is incompatible with Labour’s pledge to promote social justice, not social mobility in education.”
It went on: “Conference resolves to include in the next Labour Party general election manifesto a commitment to integrate all private schools into the state sector.
“This would include, but is not limited to: withdrawal of charitable status and all other public subsidies and tax privileges, including business rate exemption; ensure universities admit the same proportion of private school students as in the wider population (currently 7%); endowments, investments and properties held by private schools to be redistributed democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions.”
Laura Parker, Momentum’s national co-ordinator, said: “This is a huge step forward in dismantling the privilege of a tiny, Eton-educated elite who are running our country into the ground.
“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.”
🌟We did it!🌟
Labour members passed our motion *unanimously* to integrate private schools into the state sector in the next manifesto.
This is the power of the grassroots in action.
— Labour Against Private Schools (@AbolishEton) September 22, 2019
Holly Rigby, a spokesman for Abolish Eton, said: “This huge leap forward is a testament to the hard work of grassroots Labour members and the ambition and determination of Angela Rayner and John McDonnell.”
She added: “We will dismantle systems of privilege and inequality and build a society that works for the millions and not the millionaires.”
During the schools debate, Tom Barringer, of the Tottenham Constituency Labour Party, suggested abolishing Eton College.
He criticised Conservative politicians and Eton alumni, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, before adding: “What if we went into the next general election saying, with Labour in power, we will abolish Eton?
“I think that would get Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10, I think that’d get John McDonnell into number 11 and get Angela Rayner into the Department for Education, and that’s exactly what we should do.”
David Flack, of the Rayleigh and Wickford CLP, also hit out at grammar schools, saying they should be abolished to create a more equal system.
He said: “I support doing away with grammar schools. They are the disease that infects our educational system.”
Mike Buchanan, executive director of the Headmasters’ & Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), a professional association of heads of the world’s leading independent schools, said the motion was based on “myths, misinformation and misunderstandings”.
He said: “If implemented, it will be an act of unprecedented vandalism.
“Any government has a duty of care to all its citizens and this would harm children in independent and state schools, harm families and harm freedom.
“It could cripple an already cash-strapped education system and cost rather than win Labour votes.”
He added it would “threaten” the jobs of teachers and support staff, noting: “Empty promises of transferring over to a comprehensive state system ignore employment law and basic humanity.”