Guest Post: Steve Spriggs: Tuition Tax

Steve Spriggs discusses private tuition and tuition tax in his latest post for Schools Improvement…

A new study suggests that parents who pay for private tuition to help their child get into grammar schools should pay extra tax as it gives the youngster an advantage. I think this is fine….as long as everyone who drives a BMW, has a holiday in Spain, lives in a semi-detached house and once bought a tin of biscuits from Harrods is also taxed more. Basically, anyone with some money. Anyone who is at an advantage.

I’m joking, of course. I think it’s a daft idea, and if it went ahead it would end up worsening the problem of elitism in our schooling system. Many ordinary families make multiple sacrifices, such as foreign holidays, new cars and meals out to pay for extra tuition because they are willing to do anything they can to ensure their child has the best education possible. By adding on to this cost, the middle-income family will be priced out and only the wealthiest will be able to afford it.

The idea has been proposed by academics at University College London following their study which found that over three-quarters of children who receive tutoring win a place at grammar school compared with 14 per cent of those who weren’t. However, it also found that the poorest children had less than a 10% chance of winning a place whereas children from the top quarter of highest-income families had a 40% chance of getting in.

We know money plays a part in every facet of society. But why penalise those who are doing their damnedest to buck that trend by saving hard to pay for extra tuition? Grammar schools are criticised for hindering social mobility but surely ordinary families who plough their money into extra tuition are a perfect example of social mobility. And if low-income parents from a council estate who might be in the poorest 10% mentioned above take on an extra part-time job to pay for tuition that enables their child to get into grammar school, isn’t that a good thing?

The study’s John Jerrim told the Times Educational Supplement that the government “needs to explain how they are going to level the playing field between different income groups. I would envisage this as being levied on high-income families who use these services.”

Why should these parents bear the brunt of a new governmental policy? Higher-income families already pay more because they are taxed more on their earnings. They are taxed more if they own a bigger home or a more expensive car. Would you ask someone undergoing cancer treatment on the NHS who has used private healthcare at some stage in their lives to pay more to supplement a patient with a similar problem who has never paid for their healthcare? Of course not.

Private tuition isn’t usually a long-term commitment. Parents use it when they need it and don’t when they don’t. Hourly rates are starting to come down and online platforms make it easy to work with a tutor for £10 or £15 an hour. This is the same (or less) that you’d pay for football or singing lessons. Should we tax the parents extra in case they happen to produce the next David Beckham or Beyonce? I don’t think so.

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  1. Busy Mum

    Excellent, I agree. The government has lost the plot in thinking it has a duty to ‘level the playing field’. The government has lost sight of the reason for its existence.

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