A drive to effectively abolish private schools like Eton is winning the support of Labour shadow ministers.
A campaign group called Labour Against Private Schools wants independent schools in England to be “reintegrated” into the state school sector.
OPINION: As Boris Johnson – Another Prime Minister Who Went To Eton – Enters Office, It’s Time To End Private School Privilege
That means stripping them of charitable status, putting limits on pupils’ entry to universities and allowing private schools’ assets to be used by the state education sector.
The group is pressing for an “abolish Eton” debate at the Labour Party’s conference in Brighton next week, and a host of frontbenchers are backing the move.
They include shadow chancellor John McDonnell, party chairman Ian Lavery, shadow secretary for workers’ rights Laura Pidcock and shadow treasury minister Clive Lewis.
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband is also behind the plan, as are MPs who are part of the Commons’ powerful education select committee: Lucy Powell and Ian Mearns.
McDonnell said he hoped the motion would eventually form Labour Party policy.
“We know that our society is grotesquely unequal, and part of the reason for that is because of the inequalities in education, particularly in private schools, where large amounts of money are spent on a privileged few,” he said in a statement.
“That’s why I support the campaign now for us to talk about how we ensure an integrated education system, where private schools don’t need to exist and should not exist, where we have equality of education.”
He added he believed the move would be a vote-winner.
“I hope this campaign will pick up support and eventually become Labour Party policy,” McDonnell said. “I think we can gain a large number of votes on this issue, because I believe people think that everyone should have a fair start in life, and that starts by making sure that we all have the same access to education facilities.”
Holly Rigby, a school teacher and organiser behind the motion, said: “This is an historic opportunity to dismantle the private school system that confers unfair privileges and perpetuates inequality.”
If selected, the motion could be debated at the party’s conference in Brighton on Sunday.
Should Labour adopt a policy of scrapping private schools, however, it is likely to be met with fierce opposition from the independent sector.
Mike Buchanan, the executive director of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), has already spoken out.
“Independent schools have played a vital role in the education system for generations and they are recognised around the world as beacons of excellence,” he said. “We want to see all pupils getting the same opportunities by pushing up standards everywhere, not by destroying some of the best.”