Scrapping Eton will become Labour policy, campaign says

Labour activists wants to integrate private schools into the state sector and nationalise the endowments of historic public schools

Will Hazell

Labour campaign to abolish Eton College

A grassroots Labour campaign to abolish Eton College and other private schools has said it's confident the plan will be debated at the party’s annual conference and become official policy.

The Labour Against Private Schools campaign – which is using the Twitter handle @AbolishEton – is trying to drum up support among constituency branches.

It wants backing for a motion to change Labour’s current policy on private schools, a promise to charge VAT on private school fees in order to pay for free school meals.

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The campaign has already won backing from Labour MPs including former leader Ed Miliband, Clive Lewis, Laura Pidcock, Kate Green, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Rachel Reeves, Thelma Walker and Laura Smith.

It wants the party to commit to integrating all private schools into the state sector in its next general election manifesto.

The group is also trying to win support for policies including ensuring universities admit the same proportion of private school students as there are in the wider population (7 per cent), nationalising historic endowments of the larger public schools, and withdrawing charitable status and tax breaks from private schools.

Holly Rigby, who teaches English at an inner London state school and is coordinating the campaign, told Tes that she felt “pretty confident” it will get debated on the floor of Labour’s conference in September.

A motion can be debated at the conference if it is endorsed by just one constituency Labour Party (CLP), but Ms Rigby said it is “more likely” to get debated if it receives the backing of multiple CLPs.

And she is “pretty certain” the motion will get passed at the conference. “You know how left wing Labour is now,” she said.

If it is passed, it would remain Labour’s position until a general election. Ms Rigby admitted it would not be “completely binding” for the party’s next manifesto, but she said the motion would be “used to hold [shadow education secretary] Angela Rayner to account”.

Ms Rigby was educated at a maintained primary school and then a grammar, although she said her campaign also supports the state school system becoming fully comprehensive.

She said the campaign was partly inspired by the Conservative leadership race, which “looks more and more like an Eton versus Charterhouse varsity match”.

A third of British prime ministers have been educated at Eton, and if frontrunner Boris Johnson beats rival Jeremy Hunt, he will become the 20th PM to have attended the school.

Asked about her campaign by Tes, Ms Rigby said: “I would say it is class war.”

She added that a “privately educated elite” continued to dominate society and had “enforced austerity” on the country, including funding cuts that have left schools “basically on their knees”.

However, Mike Buchanan, who is executive director of the the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference of private schools, branded the campaign a "distraction".

He said that if independent schools "were harmed the state would end up picking up the cost".

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Will Hazell

Will Hazell

Will Hazell is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @whazell

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