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Report on Closure of Private School is ‘Attempt by Conservative Establishment to Scare Voters Away From Labour – and has Nothing to do With Party’s VAT Payment Plans’ 

Alton School is closing due to a “continued decline in pupil numbers” and years of financial challenges, yet the closure is being reported in connection with Labour plans to introduce a 20% VAT levy on private school fees

Alton School is closing due to a continued decline in student numbers. Photo: Alton School
Alton School is closing due to a “continued decline” in pupil numbers. Photo: Alton School

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Following Labour’s announced plans to introduce VAT payments on private school fees, the right-wing establishment have been trying to suggest that it will be a disastrous policy for all. 

When the Telegraph got wind of a private school closing, they jumped on the story with the headline, ‘First private school to close down ahead of Labour’s tax raid’.

But how true is it that a school closing under a Conservative government is the fault of a Labour policy that hasn’t happened yet? 

Firstly, my heart goes out to the pupils, teachers, and parents of Alton School. It must be awful to be part of a school that has to close down – particularly those sitting exams next year. 

The closure announcement on the Alton School website blames a “continued decline in pupil numbers”. Photo: Alton School

However, the idea they’re closing because of future Labour policies doesn’t really stack up. 

Alton School, formerly called Alton Convent School, has been struggling for years. According to their accounts, the school was in deficit every year from 2016 – 2021, despite receiving £440,000 in trustee donations and over £211,000 in government Covid grants. Without these donations and grants, 2022 would also have run at a deficit. 

In 2018, Alton School were hoping to benefit from a cash injection of £3.1 million following the sale of some land, but over the years the value fell to £1 million, and by the end of 2022, they were still waiting for the sale. They were hoping this would “improve the school’s cash liquidity and facilities”. 


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The same year, the auditors wrote, “in a very competitive market for independent education in the Hampshire/Surrey area the charity remains mindful of maintaining pupil numbers”. So, even in 2018, the they recognised the school was struggling. 

In 2021 the auditors highlighted that Covid had an impact on the school’s ability to remain.

As mentioned in the Telegraph article, a new head was brought in last year to try and improve the situation, but that wasn’t enough to attract more pupils. With 11 other private schools within a 10 mile radius, and two very good state secondaries in the same town, Alton School were in an incredibly competitive market. 

One local resident said there had been rumours that the school had also been struggling to recruit teachers and that “it lost its way when it changed its name and no one knew what it was”, referring to the name change from Alton Convent School to Alton School.  

A statement on the Alton School website said the trustees had proposed the school would close at the end of the academic year and its nursery would close on August 31.

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“This proposal is based on a continued decline in pupil numbers, to the extent that the school has now become unviable. This is due to a combination of adverse political and economic factors,” the statement reads.

“Our community has served Alton and the surrounding area since 1938 and it is with deep sadness that we may be unable to continue providing this education in the future.”

As Conservative policies impact the cost of living across the income spectrum, data from the Institute of Fiscal Studies show that even the top 10% of earners have less disposable income now than they did in 2019, which will undoubtedly impact some people’s ability to afford private school fees. 

Fortunately other local schools, both State and Private have reached out to pupils at Alton School as they have places that need to be filled. 

It’s worth noting that many state schools are facing closures due to falling birth rates and lack of funding. According to the Office for National Statistics, over 80% of primary schools and 75% of secondary schools are under capacity. 

So I think we can safely say that if the school has been struggling since 2016, has been trying to turn things around for several years and has highlighted the Covid pandemic’s impact on the school’s ability to remain, all while under a Conservative government, it really isn’t Labour’s VAT plan that’s caused their closure!  

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As one former parent said, “My two kids went here in 2021. Lovely school, but enrolments were a problem even then. Very sad that it closed but it was inevitable and certainly nothing to do with Labour!” 

I fear we will hear many more stories like this one, as the Conservative establishment fight to scare voters away from Labour, while also trying to safeguard their own inevitable interests in keeping Private schools VAT free! 

So, make sure you look behind the headlines, and consider the backdrop behind any school closure stories because schools close all the time – both Private and State. And if parents who can afford for their children to be in the 7% who attend private schools, are feeling the squeeze of the cost of living crisis, remember which government has been in power for 14 years. 


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