Independent School Head Responds to the Labour Party

By School House

5 years ago

The Headmaster of The New Beacon School (Kent), Michael Piercy, has responded to the motion passed at the Labour Party’s annual conference which would remove schools’ charitable status, add VAT to fees and integrate all independent schools into the maintained sector, in the event of a Labour government. 

Michael Piercy with his pupils at The New Beacon School

In a letter, Mr Piercy wrote that if this policy came to fruition, Labour would ‘abolish the independent sector of education and take away from parents the right to choose a school for their children.’

The Independent School Council and The Independent Association of Prep Schools, both of which The New Beacon School is a member of, have urged its independent school members to, as written by Mr Piercy, ‘inform and further enlist the support of parents to: promote the excellence of their schools, counter the inaccurate portrayal of the independent sector as a whole and publicise the enormous benefits [independent schools] bring to global education and to the UK economy.’

Using an economic calculator provided by Oxford Economics, Mr Piercy published the enormous benefits The New Beacon School brings to the UK. The New Beacon School:

· Contributes £8,708,052 to UK GDP

· Contributes £5,584,150 to the Sevenoaks local authority GDP

· Contributes 81% of its operational expenditure to local businesses

· Contributes £2,456,981 to UK tax

· Makes savings to UK taxpayers of £2,232,785 through not taking up state school places (for which payment has in effect already been made). 

· Additionally, schools allied with the Independent School Council contribute £14 billion to UK GDP per annum.

Mr Piercy adds, ‘over 20 organisations – most of which are for the benefit of children – use [The New Beacon School’s] facilities. We have become a centre of excellence in such techniques as ‘Sensory Circuits’, training local teachers and TAs. We host musical, sporting and educational events for local primary schools, raise considerable sums for local charities and provide bursarial support to give boys the benefit of a New Beacon education.’

One of the large community events hosted by The New Beacon School, which was carried out in conjunction with a local charity and a number of local schools

In his letter, Mr Piercy maintained The New Beacon School’s political impartiality and therefore it is important to note that his was not an attack on the Labour Party. His letter stressed the importance of independent schools through empirical data, introducing a defence of them based on numbers and the charitable work independent schools contribute to day after day.

Having published his letter, Mr Piercy expanded on Labour’s proposed policy in an article titled ‘The Only Minority Which Can Be Attacked With Impunity’, where he highlighted the strain the state education system is already under. In effectively closing independent schools, the state sector would only struggle more, explains Mr Piercy: ‘seven per cent of children in the UK attend independent schools. Is there the funding or infrastructure to see an additional seven per cent of pupils in maintained schools? Were all the [pupils] at The New Beacon to go to local primary or secondary schools the cost to the state would be £2,232,785. Class sizes would grow yet larger and even fewer parents would get their first choice school.’

‘Independent school fees are burdensome but justified by small class sizes, the consequent individual pastoral care, and a broad curriculum which includes sports, the arts and music.’ – Michael Piercy, ‘The Only Minority Which Can Be Attacked With Impunity’

Mr Piercy concludes, ‘there is already considerable collaboration between independent and state schools (see Schools Together for evidence). Furthermore, many families in the independent sector receive financial support with fees. Collaborating and working together can only be to the benefit of the education system as a whole, thus for our children and the future of the country. Let us not attack independent schools. Instead, let us see them as part of the solution rather than the problem.’

It is hoped that parents at The New Beacon School will join Mr Piercy and send a letter prepared by him to their MP (to receive this letter, please contact Clare Sender, Head of Marketing & Development at The New Beacon School, details below). However other independent headteachers should emulate Mr Piercy, and stand in defiance against a potential political policy which would see the demise of the independent school system.

To receive an e-copy of Mr Piercy’s letter or article, ‘The Only Minority Which Can Be Attacked With Impunity’, please contact Clare Sender, Head of Marketing & Development at The New Beacon School, on [email protected] or 01732 452131

The New Beacon School, founded in 1900, is an independent, all boys prep school in Sevenoaks, Kent. It admits boarders and day pupils from three to 13 years old. Find their School House listing here.