Grants plea to give choice in private or state schooling

Parents should be given grants to help pay for their child to go to private school.

Chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) David Hanson said families should be funded through their tax code, and allowed to decide whether to send their child to their local state school or top it up to pay independent school fees.

Those on the lowest incomes should be given more money than the

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richest. Outlining the plan, Mr Hanson said: "I suggest that, as part of their tax code, all parents have an identified personal educational grant (PEG). This is tapered in inverse proportion to salary.

"The poorest have a PEG of say 6,000, tapering to 1,000. All parents are then required to pay, via Inland Revenue, directly for their

child's schooling.

"This could be a paper transaction where parents present their PEG certificate (PEGC) to the school of their choice. The PEGC would be redeemable in any chosen local authority or private, independent or voluntary (PIV) school."

Mr Hanson said that parents are already paying for education through their taxes, but that is not made explicitly clear. "This proposal not only extends provision and draws upon public sector expertise, but very importantly would for the first time provide a truly level playing field and therefore dramatically increase social mobility. In a nutshell, all parents would be able to choose any type of school for their child."

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Mr Hanson called for the private sector to be an "integral part of education provision", in the same way private health care is now seen as normal.

He said he raised the idea with Education Secretary Michael Gove at a private meeting on general school issues two weeks ago and Mr Gove had "registered an interest". Mr Hanson's comments will resurrect the debate about "education vouchers".

The Tories announced plans for a "school passport" in 2003 – a voucher-style scheme that would allow parents to "spend" on the state school of their choice. The proposals were dropped shortly after the 2005 general election.

A spokesman for the Department for Education (DfE) said it had no intention of introducing anything like the proposal. "We are committed to investing more in the education of the poorest, and that is why the new pupil premium is at the heart of this coalition Government's plans for schools.

"Additional money from outside the existing schools budget will be made available to ensure that those teaching the children most in need get the resources."

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