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Labour’s pledge to end VAT exemption for private schools impacts inquiries ‘a little’ at Bishop’s Stortford College

Bishop’s Stortford College says Labour’s General Election pledge to end VAT exemption for private schools has “impacted enquiries a little this year”.

However, the Maze Green Road campus, which has 1,283 pupils aged four to 18, including 185 borders, is opening a new nursery class in September 2025 in response to demand.

The Labour Party manifesto proposes an end to private schools’ VAT exemption and business rate relief, but it does not say it will remove their charitable status.

Bishop's Stortford College
Bishop's Stortford College

The college is one of an estimated 2,500 private schools in the UK educating about 7% of all pupils, including about 570,000 in England. Around half, including the college, are registered charities, which means they can receive an 80% business rate reduction.

Labour says it will use the money raised from the measure to recruit an extra 6,500 state school teachers in England and improve child care.

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities who have been given an education health care plan (EHCP) by their local authority will be exempt from the VAT rise if they attend fee-paying schools because of a shortage of provision in the state sector.

Bishop's Stortford College
Bishop's Stortford College

The college offers bursaries and scholarships to some students, but pre-prep fees start at £4,142 a term, with prep-school tuition beginning at £6,387 and rising to £11,547 for overseas full boarding.

In the senior school, day pupil fees are £8,488 a term, rising to £15,508 for overseas full boarding.

In the year to July 31, 2023, the Incorporated Bishop’s Stortford College Association had a total income of £25.84 million and total expenditure of £27.2m.

The Indie asked the college to comment on the suggestion that it will have one – rather than the usual two – reception classes from September and that this is a direct response from families to the threat of VAT on school fees.

A spokeswoman said: “Bishop’s Stortford College will endeavour to minimise the impact of any tax change by keeping its costs strictly under control year in, year out, as well as keeping school fees as low as possible in absolute terms and relative to its peers.

“The college understands that parents make considerable financial sacrifices for their children to obtain an excellent education and hopes to absorb much of any VAT charge, without compromising on its excellent teaching and learning.

“At this time of year, we continue to receive pupil applications for places in September, so final pupil numbers are not yet finalised. The numbers already confirmed for September 2024, however, look strong. Demographics at the younger age groups and the possible imposition of VAT have impacted enquiries a little this year.

“Contrary to this, and in response to demand, the college will be opening a new nursery class in September 2025, which will extend the provision of its early years curriculum to three-year-olds, as well as a new bespoke dining facility, which will open in September 2024, to cater specifically for children in the pre-prep.”

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