Top boarding schools have accused Labour of “ignorance and prejudice” after the party launched an attempt to force them to share their facilities and expertise with the state sector.
The party has drafted a series of amendments to the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill, due to be discussed today, that would force fee-paying schools to “engage with their local communities and state schools to share resources and facilities”.
This could include opening their art, music and drama departments to state schools and offering careers advice and help with university applications to pupils from state schools.
“Independent schools which are charities must engage actively with local communities and state schools with a view to sharing resources and facilities,” the draft amendment says.
It adds that these schools “must engage fully with local communities and state schools with a view to careers advice, work experience and further education admissions advice”.
Anna Turley, Labour’s shadow charities minister, told The Daily Telegraph she had tabled the measures because they would tackle inequality.
But Robin Fletcher, director of the Boarding Schools’ Association – which represents 500 boarding schools including Eton College and Harrow School – said the proposals showed the party had “no idea” about the “extensive partnerships” between the two sectors that were already in place.
“These are half-baked proposals, built on prejudice against private schools and based on ignorance about the huge amount of brilliant partnership work that happens now,” he said.
“Clearly someone has no idea that hundreds of independent schools already have extensive partnerships with local communities and state schools, often much broader than what is being put forward…Forcing action in very specific areas through law is the wrong approach.”
It comes after the party’s shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said in September that Labour would look at plans to strip private schools of their charitable status if they failed to share their resources with state schools. Many fee-paying schools are registered as charities, giving them tax breaks estimated to be worth £700 million per year.