There's an obvious truth in this - private schools save the taxpayer money

There is a slightly odd attempt at political rhetoric out there. If private schools don’t charge VAT on their fees - as charities they don’t - then this is somehow a cost to the taxpayer. And yet:

Private schools are saving taxpayers billions of pounds a year, their head teachers have said in a forceful defence of the sector.

The heads used their annual report yesterday to assert the financial benefits of fee-charging schools and the good they are doing for society.

The schools bring economic benefits and taxpayer savings totalling more than £20 billion a year by educating pupils who would otherwise need state places and by providing employment, community facilities and tax contributions, an analysis for the Independent Schools Council (ISC) has found.

We’re always very wary of these calculations. Add up all the economic benefits claimed by everyone and we get to a sum larger than our economy. Not how it should - or even can - work. However:

Oxford Economics found that private schools saved the taxpayer £3.5 billion last year because children were not taking up state school places.

It’s undoubtedly true that if children aren’t going to state schools then the state isn’t paying the bill for them to go to school. No one does get a rebate of their taxes, there is no voucher system that follows the pupil into that private sector.

Which does pose an interesting question for those who would abolish the private school system. Where are you going to get the money to replace it? Further, given this saving it seems a little odd to be wibbling over the comparatively marginal VAT bill, doesn’t it?