All-party call to support boarding as ‘jewel in the crown’ of UK education

Posted: 12th June 2024

The next government should officially recognise, promote and protect the UK as the world’s leader in boarding education.

The call has come from the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) which represents nearly 500 state and independent boarding schools across the UK.

BSA says UK private boarding schools generate £3bn a year in revenues, support nearly 65,000 jobs, including 26,000 teachers as well as others working in schools and wider communities, and contribute £900m annually in tax.

It wants all political parties to acknowledge UK boarding schools as one of the ‘jewels in the crown’ of UK education.

The call comes in the wake of the Labour Party’s pledge to introduce VAT on independent school fees in the event of them winning the General Election on 4 July.

David Walker, director at the BSA, said: “There are more than 70,000 students at UK boarding schools, nearly 5,000 at state boarding schools in England, and over 25,000 from countries around the world.

“The UK has the largest number of boarding schools per square mile in the world, the world’s oldest boarding school, and more specialist boarding schools than any other country.

“That’s why we’re calling on all parties running to form the next government officially to recognise, promote and protect one of the jewels in the crown of UK education.”

Mr Walker explained that one of the key ‘jewels’ is that more than 4,000 children a year benefit from the stability of a boarding school education while their parents are deployed in the armed services, including overseas.

BSA schools also support the arts, with 26 UK boarding schools in the Choir Schools’ Association and eight receiving grants and help with fees through the government’s Music and Dance Scheme.

An increasing number of pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) also attend independent boarding schools, accounting for around 20 per cent of the total.

And the proportion of independent school pupils receiving fee assistance through scholarships or means-tested bursaries has risen by around 10 per cent, providing more opportunities for children from less well-off backgrounds.

Mr Walker added: “The BSA has always worked closely with governments of all parties on policy areas such as standards, regulations and visa rules for international students.

“We look forward to continuing that work but hope the new government will consider the impact of any policy commitments on boarding school education and its competitiveness on the world stage.

“This includes things like government funding for specialist music and dance schools or for the children of military and diplomatic families, and securing access to boarding for vulnerable or looked-after children as part of a care package or as an alternative to care.

“It also includes fees. If VAT is added to independent school fees it would be the only part of education subject to the tax across the whole of Europe. Surveys consistently say this would lead to thousands of parents taking children out of the independent sector, putting more pressure on state schools.

“It appears an exemption on VAT may be given on boarding fees at state boarding schools. We would call for boarding fees in all schools to be exempted. There is no sense in implementing a tax on sleeping overnight in one type of school and not another. We strongly believe there should be no tax on children sleeping at all.

“These areas are important and could easily get lost. That’s why we want all parties to understand the UK is a world leader in boarding and ensure they support it properly if they get into government.”

BSA have also recorded a short video speaking about the points raised in the release. Please click here to view.

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Categories: BSA News