DfE drops threat to remove private school tax breaks

The government's Green Paper response is expected to focus on partnerships, not penalties

Will Hazell

Independent schools

The Department for Education appears to have stepped away from its threat to remove independent schools' tax breaks if they fail to support state schools. 

Tes understands that the government’s response to its Schools that Work for Everyone Green Paper consultation, which is due to be published today, does not include sanctions if private schools fail to engage with the state sector.

The DfE announced today that it will set up a “dedicated unit” that will work with universities and independent schools to “strengthen partnerships” with state schools.

The department will also today publish a "joint understanding" with the Independent Schools Council, setting out how it will work with state schools, and in particular, help pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

However, the press statement announcing the unit and joint understanding makes no mention of sanctions that had previously been suggested to get private schools to support state schools.

When the government published Schools that Work for Everyone in September 2016, it said that private schools could lose the tax breaks that go with charitable status if they fail to meet “benchmarks” on how they should work with state schools.

Sources told Tes that the full consultation response was unlikely to make reference to such penalties. 

The NEU teaching union criticised the DfE’s new unit.

Kevin Courtney, the union’s joint general secretary, said: “The experience of universities and independent schools working with the state sector to raise attainment has not been a positive one to date.

“This is another ideologically driven initiative that lacks an evidence base to support it.”

He added: “The funding for this new ‘dedicated unit’ to promote such partnerships should be diverted instead to state schools that are crying out for the funding they need to educate their pupils and students.”

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