Tories tout education pledges while attacking Labour’s private school tax plan

The Tories have repeated a raft of education pledges, including the expansion of free childcare and a school mobile phones ban, while attacking Labour’s plan to impose VAT on private schools.

Rishi Sunak claimed Labour’s policy would “see class sizes soar” as he touted the Conservatives’ plans to “give our children the skills they need to succeed in the future”.

His party is pointing to its education offer as polls continue to show it trailing far behind Labour with less than a week to go until the General Election.

The Tories highlighted their plans to:

– Roll out an expansion of funded childcare, giving parents of children older than nine months 30 hours a week from next year

– Ban mobile phones during the school day

– Improve school attendance including by legislating to create a register of children not in class

– Hire more teachers by expanding the recruitment and retention premium

– Deliver the Advanced British Standard

– Create 100,000 more apprenticeships a year by shutting down “rip-off” university courses

– Deliver the lifelong learning entitlement

The party claimed that Labour’s plan to remove the VAT exemption for private schools to pay for more state teachers would push an estimated 40,000 private school pupils into state schools.

Sir Keir Starmer has denied the assertion, pointing to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggesting it is unlikely that state school class sizes will swell as a result of the policy.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on a primary school visit
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on a primary school visit (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Prime Minister said: “Education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet to improve our children’s life chances. That’s why since 2010 we have focused relentlessly on driving up school standards – with English children now the best readers in the western world thanks to the reforms we Conservatives have put in place.

“We have a clear plan to go further by creating 100,000 new apprenticeships and introducing the new Advanced British Standard to give our children the skills they need to succeed in the future.

“That’s the choice at this election between the Conservatives with a strong track record and a plan to go further, and Labour who have let children down in Labour-run Wales and whose schools tax would see class sizes soar.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan added: “Our relentless drive to improve school standards has been one of our best achievements of the last 14 years. Millions of children now have a better start in life because of our education reforms.”

Mr Sunak is expected to promote the proposals on campaign visits in the North East on Friday.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “This is desperate nonsense from the Conservative Party.

“On their watch childcare costs are soaring, school standards falling as teachers leave our schools in their droves, and apprenticeships for young people have halved.

“Labour will drive high and rising standards for every child, with thousands of new teachers, mental health support in every school, careers advice and work experience for every young person.

“We will back business with the flexibility they need to deliver high-quality apprenticeships and short, modular training that will deliver the skills our economy needs to grow.

“On July 4, it’s time to turn the page, end the chaos and deliver the change that Britain needs.”