The Labour party has recently announced plans to create a tax onto private school students, in which VAT will be charged on private education fees. Ideally, the money generated by this tax could be reinvested into primary schools to provide free school meals to all students. Under these plans, every single primary school student will receive free school meals in the UK and hopefully no students will go hungry.
“No child in the UK should go hungry at school. By charging VAT on private schools fees, Labour will make sure all primary school children, no matter what their background, get a healthy meal at school.” – Jeremy Corybn
As a thought, the policy certainly has good intentions to help feed the absolute poorest children in primary schools. However, this policy comes with the negative aspect, that for a starter, not all children are poor enough need their school meals to be paid for. If those children who can afford school meals are forced to take free school meals, then it is simply a waste of money. A possible way to solve this issue rather than handing out across the board free school meals could be to lower the limit on eligibility for free school meals, meaning that children who are on the borderline of receiving free school meals now have an easier access. The easier access would therefore mean the children who actually need a free school meal can have one, whilst the richer children who study in public schooling can either pay for their lunch or bring a packed lunch.
The estimated cost for the primary school meal scheme would be around £700-900m, as stated by Labour using the Commons Library. This is a huge sum of money that could easily be invested elsewhere, although the magnitude of this sum is not huge, it’s money that can be spent elsewhere. Better still, with the correct amount of student recieving school meals instead of all students, the overall cost could be far lower.
Private schools are actually a good concept for the education system in the UK. Those who can afford elite teaching and funding, can therefore have that teaching that they are paying for and are not a burden to the state. Private schools are largely self-funded, so trying to impose a tax on private schools will only drive out the least rich children out of private education. This in a way is inequality, not all children who attend private schools are the “super rich”, some will enter through scholarships and others will attend through their parents investment into their child by working overly hard to afford that level of education. Imposing this tax would have no effect on the richest in society, but the childrens families who are just getting by will have the hardest impact and may be forced out of private education. These boundary line students should not be forced out of private schools to fund every single childs meal in the UK, a 20% rise in the cost of private education could force out a huge amount of students into the public system. If all these children find themselves in the public system, the public schools will need more taxpayer money to pay for an increase in students. All that would be achieved through this is increasing the cost to the state for education, which is already a huge expense as 11.8% of the GDP was spent here in 1999.
Overall, this pledge by Corbyn is great for the absolute poorest people in society who need free school meals. Unfortunately, not all children need free meals, so the idea of giving every single child in the UK a free school meal seems a bit over the top. The concept of feeding these kids is great, but overspending is the key issue that Corbyn must take seriously.