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Private school where almost one third of pupils have special needs blames Labour’s VAT policy for ‘forcing closure’ – as headteacher says parents are unable to afford fee hike

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At least two private schools have now blamed Labour’s VAT policy for forcing them to close next month.

In the latest example, Elizabeth Laffeaty-Sharpe said Sir Keir Starmer‘s planned tax raid was the ‘last nail in the coffin’ for Downham Preparatory School in Norfolk, which she founded 40 years ago.

Almost a third of the pupils have special needs, while the parents are ‘ordinary’ people ‘like plumbers and electricians’ who would be unable to afford a 20 per cent hike in fees, she explained.

Last month it was reported that Alton School in Hampshire would be closing, in part because of Labour’s plans – which Sir Keir insists he would impose immediately on entering No 10 next month.

Mrs Laffeaty-Sharpe told The Sunday Telegraph that Downham – where fees are £7,800 for younger pupils and £11,820 for years seven and eight – was ‘just your local little primary school providing a service mostly for children who can’t cope in big classes’.

Elizabeth Laffeaty-Sharpe (pictured) said Sir Keir Starmer's planned tax raid was the 'last nail in the coffin' for her school

Elizabeth Laffeaty-Sharpe (pictured) said Sir Keir Starmer’s planned tax raid was the ‘last nail in the coffin’ for her school

Sir Keir has insisted he would impose a VAT hike immediately on entering No 10 next month

Sir Keir has insisted he would impose a VAT hike immediately on entering No 10 next month

Downham Preparatory School in Norfolk, (pictured) which was founded 40 years ago will have to close its doors to pupils, many of whom have special educational needs

Downham Preparatory School in Norfolk, (pictured) which was founded 40 years ago will have to close its doors to pupils, many of whom have special educational needs

She continued: ‘We will not be the only one. Small schools just cannot survive this. My parents are ordinary parents, like plumbers and electricians. They’re not rich people.’ Mrs Laffeaty-Sharpe added: ‘There’s an extreme lack of places for children with special needs [in the state sector]. There’s just nowhere for them.’

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teacher union, has warned about the knock-on impact on state schools.

He said: ‘We’ve already got a teacher supply crisis, we’ve got serious underfunding and underinvestment and depleted capacity in relation to support services for children.’



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