The principal of a fee-paying school has accused Lord Foulkes of writing “abject nonsense” after the peer called for the institution to be stripped of its charitable status.
Cameron Wyllie, of George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh, criticised the former Labour MP for an opinion piece he wrote in The Scotsman at the weekend backing calls for private schools to “pay taxes like any other private enterprise”.
Lord Foulkes singled out George Heriot’s – which was established in the 17th century for “puir, faitherless bairns” – for moving “far away” from its roots.
In a written response, Mr Wyllie said the peer appeared to have “a particularly angry bee in his rather grand parliamentary bonnet” and described him as a “form of fierce sea life” circling the “good ship ‘Jinglin’ Geordie’” (the school’s nickname).
He said: “It is just abject nonsense to say that removing business rates relief, or removing Gift Aid, or even insisting on fee-payers paying VAT on school fees would raise more money for state education. The effect of any or all of these things would be to make independent schools more elitist by driving up fees and reducing funds available to provide bursarial aid.”
He added: “What a shame that all (Lord Foulkes’) political clout and vast experience still has the tang of a vendetta when so much needs done in Scotland and Scottish education...”
It costs just over £12,000 a year to send a child to the senior school at George Heriot’s.
There are more than 1,000 senior pupils, with 63 in receipt of a free place.
Writing at the weekend, Lord Foulkes, who attended the fee-paying Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Hertfordshire, said it was an “outrageous anomaly” that private schools should be treated as charities.
He said: “Private schools should pay taxes like any other private enterprise.
“But their failure to do so is not the only problem; private schools help create division in our society and also have a negative effect on state comprehensives.”