Labour’s VAT raid: ‘I already work two jobs and cannot fathom a third’

Excited school children in school uniform with hands up ready to answer a question from the teacher
Labour has said removing VAT-free status will raise around £1.7 billion a year, although independent experts have said it could bring in much less - davidf/E+

Parents are facing a higher cost of private education if Labour wins the general election.

Labour is planning to add 20 per cent VAT to independent school fees as soon as possible if victorious, a proposal which it estimates will raise an extra £1.6 billion for pupils in the state system.

The tax raid would affect nearly three-quarters of private school families, the Saltus Wealth Index found.

Almost a third – 29 per cent – of those parents said the rising costs mean they would no longer be able to give their child or children a private education.

From fleeing the country to resorting to homeschooling, The Telegraph has spoken to readers who are among those who face removing their children from private schools as .

‘A vicious attack’

Jon*, mid-fifties, has reached the point where he is “seriously considering” homeschooling his seven-year-old daughter.

A solicitor and decorated former member of the Armed Forces, Jon went to a state school himself and says, “I’m what perhaps Monty Python or The Two Ronnies might have referred to as aspiring lower middle class.”

Although three of Jon’s children, all of whom are now grown up, went through the state school system and have done very well for themselves, the same is not the case for his youngest daughter.

Unlike Jon’s older children, he describes his daughter, 7, as “shy, private, small and sensitive”. She attended state school for two years in the Bedfordshire area, where they live, but she “was just too little, too quiet and her school reports were just dreadful”, explains Jon.

“She’s a loving child, sensitive, very sweet, perceptive but this really wasn’t working for her,” he continues. Consequently, Jon turned to the local independent school where she has “slotted in really well”. He speaks of how “the teachers are fantastic, the classroom sizes are much smaller and the children are that much more patient”.

“I don’t remember crying when my mum died, or at the aspects of suffering in Afghanistan, but I cried when the independent school called to say she had a place for the next school year,” he shares.

Since then, she has become “an independent-minded, very confident, very able young person. Having the choice to put her in an independent school has made a dramatic improvement”.

However, on top of the already increasing school fees, the 20 per cent will make the difference between Jon struggling to keep up with the fees and not being able to afford them.

“I will do my very best to see my daughter through prep school,” he says. “But with the increases in the pipeline, that basically wipes out my entire earnings.”

Jon worries how his daughter might fare if she were to return to the state school system. Thinking homeschooling might be the only option once the VAT is added, he says, if it comes to it: “I would spend my retirement learning how I need to teach her.”

Jon views Labour’s VAT raid “a vicious attack. It takes no account of the individual needs of many of the families making huge efforts to put their children into a school, not for reasons of supremacy or to be elitist, but simply because the state system is stretched so far that it can’t provide a universal service that is good for everybody.”

‘This policy penalises disadvantaged children with special needs’

Mark* is 51 and lives in Guildford. He works in IT, having recently just started his own company. But due to Labour’s planned VAT tax raid on, he is considering uprooting his family to Dubai.

His son Sam*, soon to be 11, has been diagnosed with dyspraxia and ADHD, meaning he has to attend a specialist school.

“Sam was in a mainstream primary school and found it very difficult. His lack of motor skills means he struggles with hand and leg coordination and cannot grip a pencil properly. He was in the low percentiles for his age in school. We could see he was struggling.”

Mark and his wife make an hour round trip every day for Sam to attend a specialist school for children with disabilities and learning difficulties.

“State schools cannot support Sam. It’s not just us who believe so, but our local council also. They’ve recognised that his current school is the one that is right for him and the state local schools cannot support him.

“It’s not convenient for us but we will always do what is best for Sam,” Mark says.

However, the prospect of increased costs has Mark considering uprooting his family and moving to Dubai, so his son can continue to get the specialised type of education he needs.

“We at the moment pay £24,000 a year for the school and under Labour’s proposal that will go to £28,000. In context, the number one international school in the world is in Singapore and its yearly fees are less than what we’re currently paying for Sam’s school,” he explains.

Therefore, “we almost certainly will move abroad although we would never consider it if it wasn’t for the Labour tax raid.”

“We have two children at university and we don’t want to live so far away from them. Not to mention both my wife’s and my parents are not getting any younger. But the cost of Sam’s school if we are to stay is just outrageous and extremely unfair.”

“I pay tax and have done so all my life. To have to pay a tax for our kid’s school on top of it… I fail to understand it.”

He is extremely critical of the “Labour flagship policy”, which he believes is “effectively penalising disadvantaged children with special needs. It’s born out of envy politics and taking a broad brush approach to hammer children that do not have a choice in the state system.

He concludes: “It’s unforgivable and disgusting.”

‘Just because I can afford it doesn’t mean I will sit back and accept it’

Another reader is also already looking at moving his family abroad if the proposal comes to fruition.

Adam Keefe, 41, has two children, seven and five, who attend their local private school in Chichester.

The facilities, styles of learning, class sizes and extracurricular activities surpass those of the local state school, according to Adam, and compelled him and his wife to choose to send their children there.

Their youngest son also has special needs “and needs extra help in the classroom”.

“A teacher and a teaching assistant across about 10 children means that he is able to get the additional levels of help that he would need and support that he wouldn’t get in a state school.”

Adam considers Labour’s VAT plan “poorly thought out.” Working in cyber security, his earnings enable him to afford the increased costs, however, he asserts: “Just because I can afford it, doesn’t mean I will sit back and accept it.”

Which is why he is considering moving to Spain. “We have a house abroad in Spain so we have started looking at what would happen if we were to move there.

“School fees are a third of the price for a good international school and tax is lower overall, as is the cost of living.”

Weighing up the move, Adam says: “The VAT would be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“I pay so much tax as it is. I pay well into six figures in tax every year, so if I move abroad then not only do they miss out on the VAT, they miss out on the tax that I already pay, plus the VAT on just about everything else that I buy,” he continues.

When asked if the pledge might affect how Adam votes in the upcoming election, he says: “100 per cent.”

“There’s not a massive difference between Conservative and Labour at the moment… But would I vote Labour at the moment? No way, not as long as they’ve got VAT on school fees.”

‘I already work two jobs and cannot fathom a third’

Another reader who will be priced out and faces removing two daughters - who are 11 and 16 - from their local independent school in Malvern, Worcestershire, is Claire.

Claire shares how she “already work two jobs and cannot fathom a third to increase my income on which I will be taxed more. She has “zero savings or assets, I rent and don’t own a property and literally pay month to month to keep my children in their school”.

She argues the state sector “failed” her children and describes how they’re “thriving in their independent school”. She continues: “It is a myth that independent schools are for the rich only. I know many parents similar to myself who do this because the state sector is so terrible.

Her children’s experiences in the state sector were so bad that Claire “can’t honestly fathom a return to the chaos and low standards of state education for either of my daughters”.

“If school fees are what parents choose to prioritise their spending on over cars or holidays, and work multiple jobs with zero savings - could they not be supported to do so rather than be financially penalised?

“I wish I had the money to cope with an increase in the fees but I do not. It’s very depressing and feel quite low about it,” she says.

Claire believes she and all other parents who pay for their children’s private education “do the economy a favour by not taking up places in state schools to keeping hundreds in employment at the independent schools”.

For Claire, the Labour policy “will irreversibly and negatively impact our day-to-day lives in ways I probably haven’t fully anticipated.”

“I will take on a third job if needs be to continue to support my daughters in an education I feel best suits them and caters towards their interests,” she says. “Probably tutoring more pupils.”

“I totally disagree with being forced into state education by Labour making fees unaffordable and I’m determined to try my hardest to earn more. I don’t relish the thought but what else is worth working as hard for?”

*Names have been changed