Headteacher of Tristram Hunt’s old Hampstead school UCS: ‘Plan to strip tax breaks is offensive bigotry’

UCS headteacher Mark Beard says Mr Hunt's remarks were 'offensive bigotry'. Picture: Dieter Perry

UCS headteacher Mark Beard says Mr Hunt's remarks were 'offensive bigotry'. Picture: Dieter Perry - Credit: Dieter Perry

The headteacher of the shadow education secretary’s old Hampstead school has said Labour’s plans to strip private schools of tax breaks unless they do more to help the state sector is “offensive bigotry”.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt MP. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt MP. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Former University College School (UCS) pupil Tristram Hunt has unveiled Labour’s plans for a “school partnership standard” which would be used to judge whether fee-paying institutions should qualify for business rates relief worth about £700 million over the course of a parliament.

In a speech yesterday, Mr Hunt said the independent sector had failed to meet its responsibility to “break down the barriers holding Britain back” by sufficiently sharing facilities and expertise.

But UCS headteacher Mark Beard said the shadow cabinet minister should be considering “new, helpful initiatives” to raise standards in state schools instead of trying to “tastelessly quantify” the value of public benefit his former school generates each year.

In a statement, Mr Beard said: “If the shadow education secretary were to visit his old school, what would he find? A diverse pupil population from all creeds and backgrounds, with £1 million per annum granted for fee assistance, the vast majority for 100 per cent bursaries.

“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.

“Rather than rely on independent schools to solve the issues for the 93% 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?”

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Mr Hunt said that if Labour takes power at next year’s general election, it will legislate to ensure schools only qualify for the “subsidy” if they are judged to be meeting the criteria, which also include providing teachers in specialist subjects and helping state pupils get into university.

He pointed to figures showing that just 3 per cent of private schools sponsor an academy, while 5 per cent loan teaching staff to state schools and a third share facilities.

“The only possible answer to whether they earn their £700 million subsidy is a resounding and unequivocal ‘no’,” Mr Hunt said.

“Over the last few years we have seen the limitations of asking private schools politely. So the next government will say to them, ‘Step up and play your part. Earn your keep. Because the time you could expect something for nothing is over’.”