Labour’s attack on Independent Schools threatens our local community

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Stephen James, a qualified teacher and Chairman of Conservative Friends of Education

By Stephen James.

As someone deeply committed to the educational and economic wellbeing of Dover and Deal, I must speak out against Labour’s proposed policy to impose VAT on independent school fees.

This policy is not just an ill-conceived financial burden on schools like Northbourne Park and Dover College; it is a sinister threat to our fundamental right to educational choice.

A Threat to Local Education

Labour’s attack on independent schools under the guise of fairness is deeply flawed. This proposed policy threatens to dismantle institutions that provide exceptional education and support to our community. Northbourne Park School and Dover College are prime examples of schools that would be adversely affected, causing significant disruption to the children who rely on them for quality education.

Julie Robinson, Chief Executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), recently expressed her concern on LBC, highlighting the potential disruption to children’s education if they are forced to move schools due to this policy. This disruption might not even result in additional funding for state schools, making the policy not only harmful but also futile.

Supporting Aspirational Parents

Independent schools like Northbourne Park and Dover College embody the aspirations of many parents who seek the best possible education for their children. These schools provide bursaries and financial aid to support families from diverse backgrounds, ensuring that quality education is accessible beyond just the wealthiest families. Northbourne Park School, for instance, supports local families with over £200,000 of bursary support annually, enabling many to achieve their educational goals.

The Importance of Independent Schools in Dover and Deal

Northbourne Park School and Dover College play crucial roles in our local community. Northbourne Park School supports local families with bursary support annually and provides vital educational capacity, including for SEND pupils who have struggled in the maintained sector. The school also hosts numerous community events and partnerships, benefiting local sports clubs and cultural initiatives like the Deal Music Festival.

Dover College similarly contributes significantly to the local economy and community, offering high-quality education and extracurricular activities that enrich our children’s lives. Both schools provide substantial employment opportunities and economic contributions, with Northbourne Park School alone contributing nearly £1.87 million annually to the local GDP.

A Threat to Parental Choice

Labour’s policy undermines the fundamental right of parents to choose the best education for their children. The imposition of VAT on school fees would make independent education even more exclusive, limiting it to the wealthiest families and shutting out those who work hard to afford these opportunities for their children. This policy is not about fairness; it’s about diminishing choice and control over our children’s education.

An Attack on Our Community Values

The success of independent schools like Northbourne Park and Dover College is a testament to what can be achieved with adequate funding and a commitment to listening to parents’ needs. Labour’s policy is an attack on these successes and an embarrassment to those who believe in the value of diverse educational opportunities. Their approach is reminiscent of totalitarian tactics: rather than engage in constructive dialogue, they seek to destroy what they cannot control.

The Path Forward

There is a better way forward. Collaboration between the state and independent sectors can bring about positive change for all students. The London Academy of Excellence, which partners with independent schools like Eton, is a shining example of what can be achieved through cooperation. Why can’t Labour see that working together with the independent sector is far more beneficial than attempting to dismantle it?

In Dover and Deal, the choice is clear. We must stand against policies that threaten our schools and our community’s educational future. As the Conservative candidate, I am committed to protecting the rights of parents to choose the best education for their children and to ensuring that our local schools continue to thrive.

Let’s choose strong, sensible policies that support all our children. Let’s choose to protect the values that make our community strong. 

Stephen James is the Conservative Party Candidate for Dover and Deal. He is an entrepreneur whose career spans across the realms of business, education, and military service. With a background in the British Army, serving in the Intelligence Corps, Stephen founded British Veteran Owned to support veterans in establishing sustainable businesses. In the political sphere, he also founded Conservative Friends of Education to voice educational aspirations within the Conservative Party and lead Union Blue UK, a centre-right think tank advocating for positive employer-employee relations. He is also on the board of the CDO (Conservative Democratic Organisation), a movement charged with bringing democracy back to the Conservative Party and providing a voice for party members. Steven has also twice been honoured with the Kent Teacher of the Year award. 
Follow Steven on Twitter / X here.

Photo credits: Stephen James Copyright 2024 with permission.

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