The Labour Party conference has this afternoon passed a motion calling on the next Labour general election manifesto to commit to “integrate all private schools into the state sector”.
But independent school leaders say the plan would be an “act of national self-harm”.
The motion states that the plan “would include, but is not limited to, the withdrawal of charitable status and all other public subsidies and tax privileges, including business rate exemption”.
It also says universities would have to admit the same proportion of private school students as in the wider population, currently 7 per cent.
Campaigners welcomed the Labour conference vote for the party to effectively abolish public schools.
Laura Parker, national coordinator of Labour movement Momentum, said: “This is a huge step forward in dismantling the privilege of a tiny, Eton-educated elite who are running our country into the ground.
“Every child deserves a world-class education, not only those who are able pay for it, and I’ll be proud to campaign on this manifesto pledge at the next election.”
Holly Rigby, from the Abolish Eton campaign, said: “This huge leap forward is a testament to the hard work of grassroots Labour members and the ambition and determination of Angela Rayner and John McDonnell.
“They have worked with and listened to members every step of the way, writing this policy hand in hand with the movement. This is what a democratic Labour Party looks like.
“We will dismantle systems of privilege and inequality and build a society that works for the millions and not the millionaires.”
Last week leaked documents from John McDonnell’s office showed a Labour plan to impose VAT on private schools.
Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said parents across the country had “every right to be worried about the decision by Labour Party conference to support a motion to abolish independent schools” and said the move would breach the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to choose education.
She said: “The move is an attack on the rights and freedoms of parents to make choices over the education of their children.
“Abolition would represent an act of national self-harm. Every family with school-aged children would be affected if independent schools were abolished. State school class sizes would swell further, resources would be stretched and the financial strain on already stretched budgets would be enormous.
“At present, independent schools contribute nearly £14 billion to UK GDP each year and save the taxpayer £3.5 billion per year through the education of children and young people at no cost to the taxpayer.”