Labour will campaign at the next general election with a promise to effectively abolish private schools and “redistribute” their properties to the state sector.
Party members backed the move at Labour’s conference in Brighton on Sunday, which activists hailed as “a huge step forward in dismantling the privilege of a tiny, Eton-educated elite”.
In a motion approved through a vote by delegates, attendees at Labour’s conference resolved that the party should commit to “integrate all private schools into the state sector” in their next election manifesto.
This would also see Labour campaign to withdraw the charitable status and all other public subsidies and tax privileges, including business rate exemptions, from private schools.
Raising the prospect of private schools’ buildings and playing fields being taken from their control, the motion added: “Endowments, investments and properties held by private schools to be redistributed democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions.”
And the motion also calls for Labour to ensure universities admit the same proportion of private school students as in the wider population, which the party calculated as currently standing at 7%.
The move is likely to bring a focus on the backgrounds of key Labour figures, with shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and shadow attorney general Dame Shami Chakrabarti having both sent their sons to fee-paying schools.
Two of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s key aides, Seamus Milne and James Schneider, also both attended Winchester College – an independent boarding school in Hampshire.
The proposed crackdown on private schools, pushed by the “Abolish Eton” campaign, has recently attracted the support of shadow chancellor John McDonnell.
He told the Guardian this month: “Private schools don’t need to exist and should not exist where we have equality of education.”
In her conference speech earlier on Sunday, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner spoke of “making the whole education system fairer through the integration of private schools”.
She also promised to abolish Ofsted, the body responsible for inspecting schools, and “close the tax loopholes used by elite private schools”.
After party members voted in favour of the motion on private schools, Ms Rayner told Sky News: “We know that 7% of the population cream off the best jobs, just because they went to private school, and that the state currently subsidises that.
“We don’t want that anymore, we don’t think it’s fair and we’re going to create a comprehensive national education service.”
She added Labour’s policy would mean “every child will have the best education and the best start”.
“At the moment it’s not based on people’s academic ability, it’s based on your parents’ opinion to pay and to cream off the privilege and elitism that we see that has been borne out by people like David Cameron and Boris Johnson who have wrecked our economy and ruined our country and we don’t want anymore.”
Laura Murray – national coordinator of left-wing activist group Momentum – said: “This is a huge step forward in dismantling the privilege of a tiny, Eton-educated elite who are running our country into the ground.
“Every child deserves a world class education, not only those who are able pay for it, and I’ll be proud to campaign on this manifesto pledge at the next election.”
Holly Rigby, a spokesperson for Abolish Eton, said: “This is what a democratic Labour Party look like. We will dismantle systems of privilege and inequality and build a society that works for the millions and not the millionaires.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his predecessor David Cameron, Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg and both Prince William and Prince Harry attended Eton College in Berkshire.
Responding to accusations of hypocrisy after sending her son to a fee-paying school, Ms Abbott told Sky News: “That was many years ago, what we have to look at is what will Labour’s position be going forward.”
Former Conservative justice secretary David Gauke described Labour’s plans as “chilling”.
He posted on Twitter: “I didn’t go to a private school. My children don’t go to private schools.
“But Labour’s new policy on abolishing private schools and seizing private property is chilling. And abolishing Ofsted would cause enormous damage to educational standards in the state sector.”