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Proposed removal of the Tax exemption for Private Schools

As most will be aware by now, the UK will be heading to the polls on the 4th of July to vote in a general election, which many predict will see Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party replace the Conservative party in Government. 

Labour’s proposal to remove the tax exemption for private schools is expected to have far-reaching and unintended consequences for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and the UK education system in general. Many parents of children with SEND currently pay privately for their children to attend a private school and have grave concerns about the increased costs and impact on their child’s education which this change will bring about.

If you or your family are likely to be impacted by this proposed change, there are steps you can take to shield your child from the disruption to their education and HCB can help you with this. 

Similarly, we can help private school leaders concerned about the impact on their pupils and their ability to continue providing a suitable education by providing advice and support in relation to preparing for this change.


At present, private schools fees are exempt from VAT. The current rate of VAT is 20%. The VAT Act 1994 states that the provision of education or vocational training by an ‘eligible body’, and goods or services closely related to the supply of education or vocational training, are exempt from VAT.

Private schools in the UK are made up of a number of different ‘types’ of school. There is a popular misconception that private schools are simply ‘grammar schools’ for highly academic pupils. This is not the case. Of the 1,411 private schools under the association of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), 315 of those are specifically designated as catering for pupils who require SEND provision.

According to the Independent Schools Council (ISC) census, there are 555,551 pupils attending private schools in the UK under their association and 111,154 of those pupils have been identified as having SEND. It is clear from these figures, private schools play a huge role in the education of pupils with SEND in the UK. There are many reasons for this but for the most part, private schools offer the only available and suitable environments for learning in which pupils with SEND can thrive.

Children and young people in the UK with SEND can be supported by way of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). An EHCP is a legally binding document provided specifically for a child or young person with SEND. We have produced many helpful posts on our website setting out the benefits of EHCP’s and how to obtain them (see here for one example), effectively, the EHCP should set out the needs and educational provision required by a child or young person and the educational setting they will attend (if appropriate). The EHCP creates a legal obligation for the Local Authority to fund the educational provision and school placement (including private school placements) for the child or young person. 

Just 7,646 of the 111,154 pupils receiving SEND support at private schools currently have EHCP’s. 

Many applications for EHCP’s are refused by Local Authorities even where children meet the legal requirements for requiring a plan. These decisions seem to be being influenced heavily by the lack of funding available to Local Authorities and the Government’s target of reducing the number EHCP’s being issued (see more on this here).  This has in turn resulted in an increase in the number of appeals of these decisions to the SEND Tribunal, which determines whether the Local Authority’s decision was correct and can overrule those decisions with which they disagree. Currently, the SEND Tribunal is under significant pressure due to the volume of appeals being made against Local Authority decisions regarding EHCP’s.


In June, the Labour party published their 2024 election manifesto setting out 6 ‘first steps for change’. The sixth of those first steps is ‘In key subjects to prepare children for life, work and the future, paid for by ending tax breaks for private schools.’.

If this proposal is seen through, in all likelihood, private schools will start charging parents the 20% VAT on top of their existing fees. There is no proposed blanket exemption to this for private special schools, however the proposal will not directly affect fees for children and young people with EHCP’s because their Local Authority is responsible for funding their school placement.

The ISC census shows that the average cost of an ISC day senior school is £19,000 per year, meaning parents would have to pay around £3,800 more if the tax is brought in. 


It is difficult to predict the exact impact on the UK education system which this change will have. However, what is plain to see from the figures above alone, is many children and young people with SEND who do not have EHCP’s will be negatively impacted and could experience significant disruption to their education if their parents cannot find the additional money needed to continue to fund their educational placement. 

A large proportion of the children and young people currently receiving education in the private sector are doing so because that is the only learning environment they are able to cope with and there is no way they could cope in a typically sized, public mainstream school.

The change could therefore prompt thousands of families apply for EHCP’s. If those families cannot afford to continue paying for their private school placement in the meantime, their children will be required to attend public schools. Most public special schools are already either at capacity or over-subscribed. 

Private schools have also raised concerns about their ability to remain open and continue offering a suitable education, if they lose some of their pupils because of this change. 

As we have touched on above, the SEND Tribunal is presently under massive pressure due to the volume of appeals they are receiving relating to Local Authority decisions regarding EHCP’s. With the expected spike in applications for EHCP’s as a result of this change, the pressure on the SEND Tribunal is likely to further increase to levels not previously seen.

It is easy to see why the ISC general secretary, states that this change could be a result in a ‘SEND catastrophe’.


HCB are leading experts in Education Law in the UK. We regularly assist families with every aspect of the law relating to EHCP’s to help them to navigate the legal system and put in place the support their children desperately need. 

We recommend that any family concerned by the changes outlined above consider applying for an EHCP urgently where appropriate and contact us for a free consultation with one of our specialist lawyers to discuss your options moving forward. 

If you would like to discuss your matter with one of our specialist education legal team, please contact us on 0333 202 7175 or alternatively email