BRIGHTON, England (Reuters) - Britain’s main opposition Labour Party has agreed to abolish private schools, a move for which finance policy chief John McDonnell said on Monday the party would begin drawing up proposals.
At its annual conference in the English seaside resort of Brighton, the Labour Party passed a motion supported by leftist groups to abolish private schools and integrate them into the state sector to help dismantle “the privilege of a tiny”.
Labour is introducing new policies at its conference, hoping to present itself as a government in waiting to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who went to the elite Eton school, at an election widely expected to come before the end of the year.
About seven percent of British pupils are educated at private schools, but critics say they dominate places at top universities and are far overly-represented in senior roles in politics, law, media and business.
Two-thirds of Johnson’s cabinet of senior ministers attended private school and David Cameron, who was prime minister from 2010-2016, also went to Eton.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spent some years of his education at a private school, and several members of his team of senior lawmakers sent their children to fee-paying schools.
“Now the discussions will take place exactly how that will work. You can see this developing over time,” finance policy chief John McDonnell told Sky News. “What we’re saying is ‘let’s have one education service for everybody. Let’s end these grotesque levels of inequality within our educational system’.”
Johnson, who said he owed a lot to his education, described the move was “pointless attack on the education system” at a time when the government was seeking to boost education funding.
“This would cost 7 billion pounds of taxpayers money to educate at public expense all the pupils, all the children who would no longer be educated privately,” he told reporters on the plane to the UN General Assembly in New York.
“It seems unbelievable to me that the Labour Party should now be setting out to abolish a load of schools.”
Labour’s conference has been overshadowed by rows over the party’s stance on Britain’s departure from the European Union, with leader Jeremy Corbyn being challenged over his hope to remain neutral before any new election.
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Michael Holden