Last week, Labour announced its policy to add VAT to private schools within its first year of government, if it wins the next general election.

This will raise an estimated £1.7 billion, money which Labour would invest in state schools, and which would be used to recruit 6,500 more teachers.

The Prime Minister has attacked this policy, claiming that it would serve to undermine aspiration.

Frankly, this is an insult to the aspirations of millions of families up and down this country whose children attend state schools. But it also encapsulates the issue at hand.

Why should those who are “aspirational” be inclined to send their children to a private school rather than a state school in the first place?

All children should receive an excellent education, regardless of familial wealth.

In order to realise this, we must close the attainment gap between private and state education, by investing in the latter. This policy does not necessarily amount to a tax on parents either. Private schools can choose whether or not to pass this cost onto them.

I should add that the Prime Minister’s comments are also an insult to the tens of thousands of staff teaching in our state schools – people with a vocation to improve the life chances of children – no matter what background they come from. I personally pay tribute to the work of our teachers and all staff in state schools, many of whom are having to work in unacceptable conditions.

A report published in July by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) will provide some relief to those concerned that VAT on fees might impact pupil numbers attending private schools.

It said that the policy would have “a relatively limited effect” on pupil numbers. The report also revealed some worrying but unsurprising facts about the disparity between private and state education.

It stated that, in 2022/2023, average private school fees across the UK were £15,200. This is £7,200 – or nearly 90 per cent - higher than state school spending per pupil. The report also said the gap between private school fees and state school spending per pupil has more than doubled since 2010, when it was about £3,500, or 40 per cent. The IFS report confirms the urgent need to raise standards in state schools.

However, this policy is not just about funding state education. In many cases, private education affords its beneficiaries access to networks and opportunities that can be out of the reach of those educated at state schools.

Every child is born equal and every child should have the right to an equal chance in life. Those who wish to spend money on a private education for their children are free to do so, but an advanced society should ensure fairness and equality of opportunity for all.

Every child should have access to an excellent standard of education, regardless of their start in life, and this policy would go some way in ensuring that.

Labour has a plan to drive up standards in all our state schools for all our children, by recruiting thousands of new teachers, improving access to mental health professionals in every school, ensuring the provision of dedicated careers advice, as well as early speech and language interventions. We will pay for this by ending tax breaks for private schools.

I would very much welcome your views on this.