The Political Economy Review 2017

At the same time, many will argue that private schools are detrimental to society. Despite bursary schemes, the majority of students at private schools come from high-earning families. As a result, many believe it is unjust that some children are given advantages over others purely based on their socio-economic background. They play a part in the widening inequality within the country as the rich continue to receive the best education, meaning they attend the best universities. Students at fee-paying schools are five times more likely to attend Oxbridge then students from state education, and this advantage often leads to private school alumni filling the top jobs, and so the cycle continues. Such elitism has been worsened by the rising costs of private education: day school fees rose by 21% during 2011-16, whilst gross annual income rose only 5% across the same period. The result is that independent schools are becoming more and more elitist in regards to the backgrounds of pupils they accept. Moreover, it is argued that private schools lure gifted teachers away from state education with the offer of higher wages and better employment packages, lowering the quality of state education in comparison to its private counterpart.

The tax breaks afforded to private schools as a result of their charitable statuses is by far the most contentious topic regarding this issue. It is expected that over the next five years private schools will receive a tax relief from business rates totalling £522 million (45%). Dulwich College itself is expected to pay only £786,752 (20%) of its £3,933,760 tax bill across the five-year period. Is it correct that the government essentially subsidises private schools by such a large amount? To truly justify whether public schools are worthy of such treatment, it is necessary to assess them on more than the public benefit they provide to society (which in itself can be somewhat unquantifiable and vague). Instead it is helpful to look at the economic impact of private schools.

Should well-funded schools such as Dulwich College be offered tax breaks?

Despite large tax breaks, independent schools still contribute over £3.6 billion in taxes per annum. Moreover, it is believed that they save the taxpayer roughly £3 billion a year by educating children outside of the state system. It is also important to note that the subsidisation offered by the government in the form of tax breaks allows for the offering of more bursaries to children from poorer backgrounds. On the other hand, many would argue the tax relief afforded to private schools is unjustifiable. Morally, it is questionable whether it is suitably reasonable to subsidise the education of a child stemming from a richer background, considering the pressure already placed on state schools around the country. Former education secretary Michael Gove condemned the fact that the education of “plutocrats and oligarchs” was considered charitable activity. Some believe the half a billion pounds that could possibly be raised in tax revenue could be used to ease such pressure on the state education system where class sizes are increasing and the cost-per-pupil continues to inflate. Moreover, whether or not the subsidisation of independent schools truly leads to an increase in the number of bursaries offered is questionable. The consequences of revoking the charitable status of independent schools are wide and varied. A number of negative ramifications may result, however, benefits may also rise. If the tax breaks afforded to schools are removed, the cost for public schools will rise as a result, reflecting in higher fees charged. This continues and


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