Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to provide all primary school children with a free meal - paid for by imposing VAT on payments for independent schools - sparked fierce debate online.
In response to the policy, Julie Robinson, of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), said:
“A third of pupils at our schools are on reduced fees and are from families where both parents work hard to pay the fees.
“If this measure was introduced smaller independent schools may close, driving more children back to be funded in the state system.
“600,000 children are educated in independent schools, saving the taxpayer the cost of educating them.”
But the argument riled Professor Rob Ford of the University of Manchester, who issued a swift analysis on Twitter.
In just four tweets, Ford dismantled Robinson’s assertion that private schools ease pressure on the state system.
UK independent schools educate around 625,000 children in around 2,600 schools, according to the ISC.
Private schools enjoy charitable status - meaning they are not liable for business rates. In return, they offer bursaries to less well off families and some schools open facilities for public use.
Critics say the status should be removed and private schools taxed accordingly.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner and Corbyn are expected to say on Thursday that they want to ensure children get the “basic right of a healthy lunch at school”, and “remove the stigma” associated with free meals.
They argue the policy will improve children’s health and their performance at school.
The Tory-Lib Dem Coalition government introduced free school meals for infant pupils but Labour now wants to extend the policy to seven to 11-year-olds if it was elected.
The Lib Dems promised the same move in the 2015 election manifesto.
Labour says the House of Commons library estimates that free school meals for all primary school children would cost between £700 million and £900 million a year.
And the party points to the Fabian Society suggestion that introducing VAT on private school fees could raise around £1.5bn a year.