Labour to private schools: Help others or pay more tax

Pupils at Eton College Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some private schools already sponsor state counterparts but Labour says many more should do so

"Step up and play your part. Earn your keep". Or you'll pay more in tax. That is Labour's new message to private schools.

Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt wants them to provide qualified teachers in specialist subjects to state schools; share their expertise to help state school students get into top universities and to run joint extra-curricular programmes with local schools.

A future Labour government would change the law so that any private school that is found not to meet a new 'Schools Partnership Standard' will lose an existing taxpayer subsidy - in the form of business rates relief.

This could cost a school anywhere from a few tens of thousands to a few hundreds of thousands of pounds.

In a speech setting out the policy, Mr Hunt will say that "we have seen the limitations of asking private schools politely…the time you could expect something for nothing is over'."

This is an acknowledgement that this is far from the first time private schools have faced demands to do more.

The last Labour government - when a certain David Miliband was schools minister - threatened to abolish the charitable status of private schools which failed to co-operate with government efforts to improve the state sector.

Even David Cameron has criticised what he called the "apartheid" between the two education sectors as he urged private schools to sponsor academies.

Labour say only 3% have done so so it is time to turn the pressure up.

Taking on private schools is always a popular cause in Labour circles. Equally it always produces howls of outrage from the small but influential group of people whose children are educated in them.

The fact that this policy is being proposed by the privately educated Dr Tristram Julian William Hunt, who went to the fee paying University College School (generally known as UCS) in Hampstead will, no doubt, earn Labour's shadow education secretary praise and condemnation in equal measure.

More on this story