Independent schools

Question by Isis Amlak

Seven out of the 32 independent prep schools in the borough receive Mandatory Rate Relief on their business rates. These are all prep schools which have been operational for at least 5 years.

In planning law terms, schools are included within use class D1, along with clinics, health centres, day nurseries, art galleries, museums, libraries, places of worship, church halls, law courts and non-residential education and training centres. Where a building is used for one of those purposes, national laws allow it to change to any one of the other purposes without needing planning permission. As examples, a day nursery could therefore change to a school without planning permission from the Council, and a health centre could change to place of worship without planning permission from the Council. A new operator does not necessarily need the Council’s permission to open through the planning system where a property already has a D1 classification and so the Council could not enforce a cap on the number of private schools in the borough. 

If a new private school was proposed for a site where planning permission was required (such as where there wasn’t already a D1 classification), the Council has to first assess the planning application against policies in our Local Plan and the London Plan. Where someone wishes to open a new school or improve an existing one, both those plans support that idea as a principle, recognising the importance of communities having good schools and other educational facilities. The national planning system simply recognises the use (i.e. a school) and does not distinguish between whether it is state funded or private. 

As part of its statutory duties, the Council is focused on ensuring that there are sufficient state-funded school places for the borough. There are a number of ways in which we ensure that independent schools make a positive contribution to their local communities, and independent schools which are charities are required to demonstrate what charitable contribution they make. For example:

  • We promote independent/ state school partnerships
  • We hold an annual meeting of independent schools in the borough where we share good practice in working with the state sector
  • Any new school requiring planning permission is required to enter into a community use agreement, enforceable through the planning regime to ensure that the wider community benefits from the school