Most people in Britain want an end to tax-breaks for fee-paying schools, with the money raised used for education more widely, according to a poll published today.
Independent schools – including some of the most well-known and wealthy institutions such as Eton and Harrow – are legally regarded as charities and are thus exempt from a number of taxes.
But 56 per cent of UK voters want to see an end to this situation, with only 23 per cent supporting it, according to a survey carried out by YouGov.
The University and College Union (UCU), which represents academic and teaching staff in further and higher education, says that ending charitable status for private schools would raise £100 million every year.
The news is likely to prove particularly embarrassing for the shadow Education Secretary David Willets, who will address the Conservative Party conference tomorrow (7 October). Despite his support for retaining private school tax breaks, the poll found Tory voters to be almost evenly split on the issue, with 40 per cent agreeing with him and 41 per cent supporting change.
Change was also backed by 72 per cent of Labour voters and 56 per cent of Liberal Democrats.
“I was astounded to discover that private schools were benefiting to the tune of £100m a year in tax breaks while the country was supposedly unable to find funds to pay for university places for thousands of students” said UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt.
She added, “The poll shows that people across the political spectrum agree with me that in a time of recession every pound of taxpayers’ money we spend on our children's education should be to the benefit of the many, not the few.”
The UCU suggest that the £100 million raised could fund 20,000 additional university places.