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Hunt accused of 'offensive bigotry' by head of former private school

The head of Tristram Hunt's old school in London has accused the shadow education secretary of "offensive bigotry" following his threat to pull £700m worth of tax breaks if the independent sector fails to support state schools.

Mr Hunt set out his plans in a speech today, in which he proposed withdrawing business rates relief offered to private schools unless they can clearly show they are helping state schools.

A Labour government would legislate to ensure the schools only qualify for this "subsidy" if they pass a new "schools partnership standard", he said.

But the move was condemned by Mark Beard, headmaster of the University College School (UCS), which Mr Hunt attended in the late 1980s, who issued a blistering attack on the former student via a statement. 

Mr Beard said that if the shadow Cabinet member were to visit his old school, he would find a "diverse pupil population", a "range of collaborations" with state schools and "myriad" community service projects raising "tens of thousands of pounds annually". 

And he added: "Indeed, if Mr Hunt wanted to tastelessly quantify the value of public benefit that UCS generates each year, then he would find that it far outstrips the value of tax relief that UCS receives through its charitable status. And UCS is not alone in this regard," Mr Beard added.

"Aside from the questionable legality of whether a government can in effect remove charitable status for political reasons (did he not learn from Mr Gove’s abortive attempt to make Ofsted inspect independent schools?), Mr Hunt seems to want independent schools to become pure business ventures.

"What happens then? Remove charitable status and he removes any pretence of encouraging those schools to play their part in society; instead, they could charge whatever fees they wished, not bother about bursaries, not worry about pupil diversity and not share their facilities with the local community. There is not a head of an independent school in the land who would want that.

"Rather than rely on independent schools to solve the issues for the 93 per cent of children who are educated in the state sector, isn’t it time for Labour to come up with some new, helpful initiatives rather than espousing what some might deem an offensive bigotry?”

In a speech at Walthamstow Academy this morning, Mr Hunt said "the only possible answer to whether [private schools] earn their £700 million subsidy is a resounding and unequivocal 'no'."

Related stories: 

Ministers must not turn to independents to 'solve state schools' problems' - 6 October 2013

Private school teachers' workload increases as fees rise - 8 November 2014 


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