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VAT fears vanish from most UK language schools

UK Language schools are heaving a sigh of relief after fears that their fees might be subject to a 20% sales tax, known as VAT, if the Labour Party came to power in the upcoming election were quashed by the office of Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Two English UK members with schools in Starmer’s London constituency, Ben Toettcher of Skola and Sue Rao ABC, sent a letter to the Leaders Office and received a clear reply: “Labour’s policy would charge VAT on fees for registered independent schools. English Language Schools, if not registered as independent schools with the Department of Education, would not be affected.”

Under English law, to register as an independent school an educational institution must offer full primary and/or secondary education and must have at least five pupils under the age of 16, or only one child who has either Special Educational Needs (SEN) or is under the care of local government. It is illegal for any institution which fulfils these requirements to remain unregistered. Around 6% of children in Britain attend independent schools compared with 16% in Australia and 20% in France.

Jodie Gray, chief executive of English UK, said: “This is great news for the sector and proves how crucial it is that members are involved in our campaigning work.”

Around 25 English UK members, most of them boarding schools, will remain affected by the VAT policy if, as widely predicted, the Labour Party gets into power. This includes two in Scotland where exemption from Business Rates for not-for-profit private education has already been removed. If Labour come to power, business rates, already paid by schools in the state sector, will be extended to all not-for-profit independent schools.

It is unclear whether VAT will need to be added to summer school fees where courses are run by for-profit companies owned by independent schools.  

Most private colleges specialising in A-levels and University Foundation Years for international students have already taken the decision to stop enrolling 15-year-olds and removed themselves from the register.

Image courtesy of Sarah Agnew
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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