Independent Schools VAT

Independent Schools VAT – SEND Exemption?

PAG Staff2024, Article, Independent schools, Inequalities, Policy, Schools, SEND

Independent Schools VAT -
SEND Exemption?

In recent discussions within the UK's educational and political landscapes, a crucial debate has emerged concerning the application of VAT on school fees, specifically regarding provisions for special needs education (SEND) within independent schools.

Independent Schools VAT Row 

As of January and April 2023, contrasting positions have been highlighted by Bridget Phillipson in the House of Commons and further elaborated by the Labour Party. The discussion centers on whether future governmental policies should exempt special needs schools entirely or solely special needs pupils with an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) from VAT on school fees.

This differentiation has significant implications; exempting special needs schools could potentially exclude pupils with mild to profound SEND attending independent institutions not classified as 'special schools' from VAT relief. Conversely, exempting only pupils with an EHCP might inadvertently encourage a surge in seeking special needs diagnoses, potentially straining public resources and local authorities already under financial pressure due to a £2.4 billion deficit in special needs budgets.

Concerns Raised  

Jonathan Hetherington, head of More House School, voices concerns that the proposed exemptions fail to adequately support vulnerable, neurodiverse children who are not sufficiently served by state provisions. Meanwhile, the practicality of implementing VAT exemptions raises questions about legal feasibility across the UK, given the varied educational frameworks and the inherent nature of VAT as a consumer expenditure tax.

This debate underscores the complexity of balancing legal, political, and social considerations in striving for equitable education policy, especially for the most vulnerable segments of the student population. The discussion remains ongoing, highlighting the need for careful policy design to navigate these intricate challenges effectively.

This information comes partly from a recent report published by the EDSK entitled 'Obstacles to adding VAT to schools fees'.

PAG Support 

PAG has a long, successful track record of supporting and developing SEND provision, working with both trusts and local authorities, including being actively engaged in projects to provide quality, affordable independent provision, which you can read more about in Schools Week here.

To speak to us about supporting your SEND needs, please use the contact page above and we’ll be in touch shortly.