Labour commits to abolishing private schools in next manifesto

Labour has committed to abolishing private schools and integrating them into the state sector, pledging to include it in Labour’s next manifesto. Backed by Momentum and the Abolish Eton campaign, the policy passed overwhemingly on conference floor and was endorsed by the Education Secretary Angela Rayner. 

The motion commits Labour to include in its next manifesto the integration of all private schools into the state sector. This includes stripping private schools of their charitable status, placing limits on the amount of privately educated pupils who can attend university and for private schools’ endowments and assets to be redistributed into the state education sector.

Angela Rayner’s endorsed the proposal in her speech to conference, saying that Labour will make “the whole education system fairer through the integration of private schools”.

John McDonnell also endorsed the policy in an interview with the Guardian before conference, saying “private schools don’t need to exist, and should not exist”.

The policy comes as Momentum aims to get a series of radical policies adopted by Labour, including a Green New Deal which would see Britain go zero carbon by 2030, a four day working week with no loss in pay, abolishing all detention centres and linking rents to local incomes. 

Laura Parker, Momentum’s National Coordinator, said: 

“This is a huge step forward in dismantling the privilege of a tiny, Eton educated elite who are running our country into the ground. Every child deserves a world class education, not only those who are able pay for it, and I’ll be proud to campaign on this manifesto pledge at the next election.” 

Holly Rigby, a spokesperson for Abolish Eton, said: 

“We are delighted that Labour has committed to integrating all private schools into the state sector and that it will feature in the next manifesto. This huge leap forward is a testament to the hard work of grassroots Labour members and the ambition and determination of Angela Rayner and John McDonnell. They have worked with and listened to members every step of the way, writing this policy hand in hand with the movement. This is what a democratic Labour Party look like. We will dismantle systems of privilege and inequality and build a society that works for the millions and not the millionaires.”

More info:

Conference notes:

  • Only 7% of UK students attend private schools, yet the Sutton Trust 2019 report revealed that 65% of senior judges, 52% of junior ministers, 44% of news columnists and 16% of university vice-chancellors were educated in private schools.
  • Children at private schools have 300% more spent on their education than children in state schools.
  • Participation in private schooling is concentrated at the very top of the family income distribution
  • A Populus poll revealed 63% of the public agree, “it is unfair that some people get a better education and life chances for their children by paying for a private school.”

Conference believes:

  • Labour must go further than the 2017 manifesto to challenge the elite privilege of private schools who dominate the top professions.
  • The on-going existence of private schools is incompatible with Labour’s pledge to promote social justice, not social mobility in education.
  • Labour is opposed to hierarchy, elitism and selection in education.
  • Private schools reflect and reinforce class inequality in wider society.

Conference resolves:

  • To include in the next Labour Party general election manifesto a commitment to integrate all private schools into the state sector. This would include, but is not limited to:
    • Withdrawal of charitable status and all other public subsidies and tax privileges, including business rate exemption.
    • Ensure universities admit the same proportion of private school students as in the wider population (currently 7%)
    • Endowments, investments and properties held by private schools to be redistributed democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions.