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Thousands of special needs children in Scotland at risk from Labour’s VAT raid

Boy in private school uniform with overtone of red for danger
Boy in private school uniform with overtone of red for danger

Thousands of children with special needs in Scotland will be hit by Labour’s tax raid on private schools, The Telegraph can reveal.

Sir Keir Starmer has said that under plans to add VAT to private education, children in England with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) will be exempt from the increase.

EHCPs are local authority managed certificates that cover private school fees in cases where the child may need additional support because of their special needs. However, the scheme does not exist in Scotland.

According to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), 7,600 pupils at private schools in England – equivalent to 26pc – currently have ECHP plans.

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The document most closely resembling an EHCP north of the border is a Co-ordinated Support Plan (CSP), but these are rare and reserved for children with the most complex special needs.

Just 2pc of children in Scotland with support needs have a CSP – equivalent to 40 children, according to the Scottish Government’s Registrar of Independent Schools in Scotland.

The same government department told The Telegraph there are approximately 9,000 who will be forced to fork out for Labour’s tax unless provisions are quickly introduced.

The Labour party said it would “work with the Scottish Government on current arrangements”.

Lorraine Davidson, chief executive of the Scottish Independent Schools Council, said: “There is no equivalent to the English system in Scotland. Fewer than 40 pupils at independent schools have CSPs and there is no automatic right to be considered for one if you attend an independent school.

“We welcome any discussions between Labour and the Scottish Government on the need to minimise disruption to the education of children, regardless of their background or which part of the system they are being educated in.

“Far from helping state schools, independent research has shown the VAT policy will cost the state money in Scotland. It will lead to increased pressure on state schools, which will need to fund 6,000 additional places for those forced out of their school, and support thousands more pupils who have additional support needs.”

While the Registrar of Independent Schools in Scotland was unable to provide an exact figure for the number of pupils in private schools in Scotland with additional support needs, Ms Davidson estimated that there are approximately 9,000 who will be forced to fork out for Labour’s tax unless provisions are quickly introduced. This was based on the percentage of children nationally with additional support needs, and the number of children in Scottish private schools as a whole.

When approached for comment, Scottish Labour said: “In England the result of an EHCP is that the local authority funds the child’s place. Although in Scotland we do not have EHCPs, there are situations and processes where Scottish local authorities do cover the costs of some children’s places in special and independent schools due to their specialist needs, and we would work with the Scottish Government to ensure that changes in VAT at a UK level did not affect these arrangements.”