Potential VAT on school fees FAQs

Last updated: 5 July 2024

The new Labour government proposed in its pre-election manifesto an intention to introduce VAT at a rate of 20% on school fees and remove the 80% business rate relief, available to independent schools with charitable status. We are awaiting full details of the proposed changes and the timescale on implementation. We will update the FAQs as major developments are confirmed.

Our commitment

As the champion of girls-only education for the last 150 years, the GDST remains committed to our mission of helping girls learn without limits, so they go on to lead lives without limits. Our commitment to you is that we will continue to do whatever we can to keep fees as competitive as possible over the coming years, so that as many girls as possible continue to benefit from a GDST education in one of our schools.

What impact will the Labour Party’s independent school policy have on fees?

The GDST remains committed to our mission of helping girls to learn without limits, so they go on to lead lives without limits.  As a not-for-profit registered charity, all our fees are invested into our educational offer. At this stage, we cannot provide any detailed guidance on how any future changes in UK VAT rules may impact GDST’s fees. While the Labour government has announced their intention to impose VAT on school fees, they have not published any detailed proposals on how and when this tax would be applied. Whilst it is not possible to make any commitment on the overall cost of students’ education in the future, please rest assured that we are actively working to ensure we are in the best possible position to keep the VAT-related fee increase appreciably below the 20% uplift being mooted.

What is the GDST doing to mitigate the impact?

We believe that it is important to prepare for this policy becoming a reality and to minimise the impact it will have on school fees.  Our schools benefit from being part of a family of 25 schools and we work together to ensure we are operating as efficiently as possible so that we can focus on what matters most – giving our students an excellent GDST education.  

For many years our Trustees have taken important decisions to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the GDST, putting us in a strong position for unexpected eventualities. As a family of schools, the GDST is in a unique position to leverage efficiencies across our network. Our schools benefit from cost savings through shared services and our centralised procurement team utilises our purchasing power as a group to negotiate further cost efficiencies. This approach has seen us make significant savings over many years, most recently in the context of rising energy costs. We continue to work tirelessly to ensure all our schools are operating as cost effectively as possible.

What impact will the Labour government’s policy have on the sustainability of GDST schools?

The size of the GDST family of schools gives us strength and depth and our strong financial core puts us in a position to weather adverse financial conditions.  As the biggest provider of girls-only education, with a strong ethos and belief in that benefit and providing it to as many girls as possible, we are absolutely committed to being able to provide access to girls-only education in as many places as possible across the country.

What impact will the Labour government’s policy have on GDST bursaries?

The GDST has a proud history of offering bursaries and scholarships to those who need them, and our commitment to reaching as many girls as possible, through bursaries and scholarships as well as partnerships with local state schools and our two academies, lies at the heart of our purpose as a charity. Our bursaries are part funded by restricted endowment funds, which can only be used in this way, which means we will be able to continue to support current students who benefit from these awards.

Why can’t you reduce other spending, for example on your estate or on marketing?

We continue to work very hard to ensure all our schools are operating as cost effectively as possible and to manage costs across our family of schools so that we can focus on what matters most – giving our students an excellent GDST education.

Our teachers and staff are our most important asset, and this is reflected in the fact that 75% of the expenditure in schools is on our people. Their passion and dedication are the driving force behind our students’ education.

We also have a vast number of school buildings, some of them dating back 100 years or more. It is important that we invest in these buildings to make sure that they are in a fit condition for first class teaching and learning, compliant with health and safety standards and sustainable in all senses of the word. This includes making sure that any investment now will lead to cost efficiencies in the future. If education becomes a VAT-able supply, our capital expenditure will help us reduce the impact of the VAT on fees because we would be able to offset the VAT we currently pay, as we cannot currently recover this.

The GDST spends a relatively small amount on marketing and our marketing function plays an important role in maintaining recruitment across our family of schools.

A family of schools

23 independent schools and two academies in England and Wales

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